Five senior officials in Jingmen city located in Hubei province, the center of the coronavirus outbreak, were punished by provincial authorities on Feb. 26, after the city reported “-107” new diagnoses of COVID-19 patients.
In fact, 10 cities in the province also reported “negative” patients that day.
Chinese state-run media Xinhua reported that on Feb. 26, the Hubei Commission for Discipline Inspection, the Chinese Communist Party’s anti-corruption watchdog agency, punished five Jingmen officials for reporting confusing data on Feb. 19.
The city’s Party boss Zhang Aiguo and the mayor Sun Bin received an admonishment.
The vice mayor Liang Zaoyang received a verbal warning and a record of “wrong behavior” in his official resume. The director and deputy director of the city’s health commission, Li Zhizhen and Li Ai’e, both received a “severe warning” and a record of “severe wrong behavior” in their official resumes.
The watchdog agency said that these officials “didn’t understand the policy accurately, didn’t do their job properly, and didn’t check the reported data strictly,” which “caused a bad impact [to society].”
The incongruous data occurred due to a change in the Chinese regime’s methodology for diagnosing coronavirus patients.
China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published guidelines on Feb. 5, which allowed Hubei province to use CT scan results to diagnose whether a patient is infected with the virus. Patients typically exhibit “ground glass opacity,” or indicating fluid in the lungs.
On Feb. 13, eight days after this guideline was published, Xinhua reported an almost tenfold jump in the number of new diagnoses in Hubei. The province had 14,840 new cases on Feb. 12, compared to 1,638 new infections announced for Feb. 11, and 2,097 for Feb. 10.
But on Feb. 19, China’s National Health Commission revised the rule and said nucleic acid testing, which involves taking body samples and testing whether it contains the virus genetic sequences, would be the only method to diagnose a coronavirus patient hereafter.
From midnight of Feb. 18 to midnight of Feb. 19, newly-diagnosed cases in Hubei totaled 349, while there were 615 newly-diagnosed patients in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei and where the outbreak first emerged.
The officials explained that the Hubei total was less than the Wuhan count because other cities had reported “negative” cases upon implementing the new diagnosis criteria.
In other words, some cities had patients whose CT scans were consistent with virus infections, but did not test positive during nucleic acid testing.
The Jingmen city health commission reported on Feb. 20 that there were five newly diagnosed patients in the city on Feb. 19. But according to the new criteria, there were 112 diagnosed patients who were previously diagnosed by CT scans but did not test positive in nucleic acid testing. So, the total number of newly-diagnosed patients would be -107.
After a public uproar about the figures, Chinese officials admitted to their folly.
“The modification of diagnosed data attracted the attention of the public, and people doubted our data,” Tu Yuanchao, deputy director of the Hubei health commission, said at a daily press conference in Wuhan on Feb. 21.
Tu said that he recognized several cities did the same thing of revising down their numbers.
U.S.-based China affairs commentator Tang Jingyuan said that Chinese officials likely lowered the numbers because it shows to their superiors that they are doing a good job in combating the outbreak.
After people complained, “provincial-level officials are asking city-level officials to take the responsibility for reporting irrational data,” Tang said. “It shows you how ridiculous the official data is.”
China’s official infection and death toll figures have been challenged inside and outside China.
According to a series of internal government documents obtained by The Epoch Times, daily new infection numbers collected by the Shandong province Center for Disease Prevention and Control were 1.36 times to 52 times higher than officially published data by the Shandong health commission. Each day, Shandong authorities chose to publicly report only a portion of the internal data collected from hospitals that perform coronavirus diagnostic testing.