Chinese figures can be trusted, study finds
China Daily

Medical workers in Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University in Wuhan, Central China's Hubei province, on Jan 24, 2020. (Photo: Xinhua)

New ways of counting deaths sees total rise

A fraud detection law can reject the claim that China's COVID-19 data has been manipulated, a study has found, suggesting that policy makers in the rest of the world should trust the Chinese data and formulate policy accordingly.

The study, released on Monday, is co-authored by Christoffer Koch from the research department of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, and Ken Okamura from the Said Business School at the University of Oxford.

It said China's confirmed infections matched the distribution expected in Benford's Law and are similar to those seen in the United States and Italy, and thus they could find no evidence of manipulation.

Benford's Law is used to detect fraud or flaws in data collection based on the distribution of the first digits of observed data, and is widely applied in economics and accounting. It was also used to examine the reported weekly number of confirmed cases from 35 countries during the H1N1 pandemic in 2009.

Though it is possible to create data series that fit Benford's Law, to manipulate the Chinese data in this fashion would require someone to coordinate daily announcements across all provinces, while accurately forecasting future infection rates. This, the study found, is improbable.

As China is at least a month ahead of Europe and six weeks ahead of the US, its data should be used not only for the calibration of models to inform policy measures to slow infection, but also for guidance in the lifting of stay-at-home orders, it added.

The city of Wuhan in Hubei province has revised up its number of confirmed COVID-19 cases by 325 to 50,333, and added 1,290 more fatalities, taking the total to 3,869 as of the end of April 16. This ,reflected incorrect reporting, delays and omissions, according to the Wuhan municipal headquarters in charge of COVID-19 epidemic prevention and control.

Similar adjustment has been seen in the Spanish region of Catalonia, which on April 15 announced an additional 3,242 novel coronavirus deaths, nearly doubling its previous tally. According to Reuters, it cited a change in methodology to include data from funerary services on suspected and confirmed COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes and private homes.

On Wednesday, the British government for the first time released the full daily COVID-19 death toll.

The previous UK daily toll only comprised of people died in hospital who had tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

The Office for National Statistics released a second toll several days later that included deaths in care homes and the community.

Wednesday's new combined daily total was 765. The total number of COVID-19 deaths in the UK has exceeded 26,000.