BEIJING (AP) -
China acknowledged Friday that the coronavirus death toll in the one-time
epicenter city of Wuhan was nearly 50% higher than reported, underscoring
just how seriously the official numbers of infections and deaths around the
world may be understating the dimensions of the disaster.
In Italy, Spain,
Britain, the United States and elsewhere, similar doubts emerged as
governments revised their death tolls or openly questioned the accuracy of
“We are probably
only seeing the tip of the iceberg,” said Barcelona University
epidemiologist Antoni Trilla, who heads the Spanish government’s expert
panel on the crisis.
outbreak has infected more than 2.2 million people and killed over 145,000,
according to a Johns Hopkins University tally based on figures supplied by
government health authorities around the globe. The death toll in the U.S.
topped 34,000, with more than 680,000 confirmed infections.
infections and deaths have been under-reported almost everywhere. Thousands
have died with COVID-19 symptoms - many in nursing homes, which have been
ravaged by a disease that hits the elderly the hardest - without being
tested. Four months into the outbreak, nations are still struggling to
increase their testing capacity, and many are still far from their goal.
In Italy, officials
have acknowledged that the country’s official death toll of more than 22,000
understates the true number, primarily because it doesn’t include those who
died in nursing homes and were not tested.
A government survey
released Friday of about one-third of Italy’s nursing homes found more than
6,000 residents have died since Feb. 1. It was unclear how many were a
result of COVID-19.
In Britain, the
official death toll of about 14,600 come under increasing scrutiny because
it likewise does not include any deaths at home or in nursing homes. The
country’s statistics agency has said the actual number of dead could be
around 15% higher; others think it will be far more.
And in Spain, the
country’s 17 autonomous regions were ordered to adopt uniform criteria on
counting the dead. The country has recorded more than 19,000 deaths, but the
system leaves out patients who had symptoms but were not tested before they
“There is a general
feeling that the epidemiologists don’t have a clue of what’s going on, that
experts know even less and that governments are concealing information, but
I don’t think that’s true,” said Hermelinda Vanaclocha, an epidemiologist on
Spain’s top virus advisory panel. “It’s simply not easy.”
China raised its
overall death toll to over 4,600 after Wuhan, where the outbreak first took
hold, added nearly 1,300 deaths. Questions have long swirled around the
accuracy of China’s case reporting, with critics saying officials sought to
minimize the outbreak.
That has been a
struggle around the world, though. The official death toll in New York City
soared by more than half earlier this week when health authorities began
including people who probably had COVID-19 but died without being tested.
Nearly 3,800 deaths were added to the city’s count.
Such figures can
have a huge influence on governments’ actions, as medical staffs struggle to
figure out how to cope with surges of sick people and officials make crucial
decisions about where to devote resources and how to begin easing lockdowns
to resuscitate their economies.
shrank 6.8% in the quarter ending in March compared with the same period a
year ago, its worst contraction since market-style economic reforms began in
The number of
people applying for unemployment benefits in the U.S. rose by 5.2 million,
bringing the four-week total to a staggering 22 million. U.S. unemployment
could reach 20% in April, the highest since the Depression of the 1930s.
Layoffs are spreading well beyond stores, restaurants and hotels to
white-collar professionals such as software programmers and legal
Trump told the nation’s governors on Thursday that restrictions could be
eased to allow businesses to reopen over the next several weeks in places
that have extensive testing and a marked decrease in cases.
New York, the
deadliest hot spot in the U.S., reported more encouraging signs Thursday,
with a drop in the daily number of deaths statewide and the overall count of
people in the hospital.