Study shows China coronavirus cases might have been four times the official figure

More than 232,000 people might have been infected in the first wave of COVID-19 in mainland China, four times the official figures, according to a study by Hong Kong researchers.

Mainland China reported more than 55,000 cases as of 20 February but, according to research by academics at Hong Kong University’s school of public health published in the Lancet, the true number would have been far greater if the definition of a COVID-19 case that was later used had been applied from the outset.

China has now reported more than 83,000 cases. Globally, the death toll from the coronavirus has exceeded 183,000, with the number of cases worldwide standing at more than 2.6 million.

China’s national health commission issued seven versions of a case definition for COVID-19 between 15 January and 3 March, and the study found these changes had a “substantial effect” on how many infections which were detected as cases.

It comes as China’s ambassador to the US called for “a serious rethink of the foundations” of the two countries’ relationship, while also criticising US politicians for ignoring scientists and making “groundless” accusations.