China may have logged hundreds of thousands more cases of coronavirus than it is publicly admitting to, new data leaked from a university suggests.
Officially, the country has reported just 84,029 cases of the virus but there has been widespread skepticism over this figure amid a lack of transparency from Beijing.
But now, a database leaked from the National University of Defence Technology in the city of Changsha suggests the country could have 640,000 cases.
The information comes from a database leaked to Foreign Policy and 100 Reporters, which carried out a brief analysis of the information it contains.
They say the dataset contains 640,000 individual entries taken from at least 230 cities spread across the country.
Each entry contains latitude, longitude, and ‘confirmed’ number of cases at the location on a specific date, which range from early February to late April.
he locations include hospitals but also apartment compounds, hotels, supermarkets, railway stations, restaurants, schools and even a branch of KFC.
Assuming that each entry contains at least one case, that would mean at least 640,000 cases of the virus which have been recorded.
The number could also be far higher. A single data entry outlined by those with access to the database contains two cases of the virus, reported at a church in the city of Harbin on March 17.
The number could also be lower. Reporters say it is not clear how the data was gathered – although the university website says it used a range of public resources.
It is also not clear why data was taken from specific locations on particular dates.
Inconsistencies in data gathering methods means it is possible that single cases could have been counted several times, skewing the figures.
The data set also does not make it clear what was classified as a ‘confirmed’ case of the virus, which had led to discrepancies in reporting in other countries.
Since no names or identifying details were included with the data, both Foreign Policy and 100Reporters said it has been impossible to verify any of the cases.
MailOnline has not seen the dataset, which has not been released publicly.
Despite its shortcomings, the existence of such a large database will add to existing suspicions that China is not being honest about its virus toll.
China, like most other countries, has struggled to provide accurate data on a disease that has spread across the world rapidly, especially since scientists believe up to 80 per cent of those who catch it may have no or mild symptoms.
But allegations against Beijing go further, namely that it has deliberately covered up figures in an attempt to convince world leaders it out-performed them in terms of its response – or to buy time to stockpile PPE and medicines before the virus spread.
The US Centers for Disease Control refused to comment to Foreign Policy and 100reporters, while the WHO said it was unaware such a database existed.
Since the first cases of the virus were recorded around a wet market in the city of Wuhan in December last year, coronavirus has swept across the globe.
As of Friday, 4.4million cases of the virus had been confirmed worldwide and more than 300,000 people had died from the disease it causes, official figures showed.
However, both figures are believed to widely under-estimate the true scale of the virus because of widespread problems with testing.
The virus has forced most major nations to enact unprecedented and sweeping lockdown measures which have largely confined people to their homes for the last several months.
Countries, including China, are only just starting to emerge from those lockdowns, amid fears of a second – more serious – spike in infections and deaths.
Some hope has been offered by the development of reliable antibody tests that can detect whether a person has ever had the virus, potentially offering the first comprehensive look at how many cases there were in the world.
A vaccine being developed at Oxford University has also shown promising results in rhesus monkeys by stopping the virus penetrating deep into their lungs, where it can be fatal.