China says it's maintaining transparency as transmission nears zero
A recovered patient (R) waves to medical staff of a temporary hospital in Wuhan City, central China's Hubei Province, February 26, 2020. /Xinhua

A recovered patient (R) waves to medical staff of a temporary hospital in Wuhan City, central China's Hubei Province, February 26, 2020. /Xinhua

China will maintain transparency in reporting and treating novel coronavirus (COVID-19) patients under strict prevention and control work guidelines as transmission nears zero, senior Chinese officials said on Tuesday.

The Chinese government will continue with necessary measures to contain the pandemic and publicize any local new cases upon detection, according to the announcements from a State Council executive meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang on work resumption on Tuesday.

At a top-level meeting on the virus containment on Monday, Li said that despite the achievements in the containment work nationally, there are still risks in terms of sporadic cases and regional outbreaks in the country as well as the threat posed by the global outbreak.

Thus, Li urged local governments to accurately report statistics of any new COVID-19 cases and must not hide up or leave out any information just to keep local records clear of newly added cases.

These remarks came after increasing doubts were raised on the significantly improved situation in China. As of Monday, no new COVID-19 cases were reported in central China's Hubei Province, where the worst-hit Wuhan City is located, for five straight days, according to the local health authorities.

The contentious point over the transparency of the data lies in the fact that two types of patients were not counted in the statistics. First, recovered patients who have been tested positive again and second, people who have been tested positive but show no virus-like symptoms.

Amid emerging concerns, health authorities of Wuhan City and Hubei Province explained the reasoning behind the decision and how they have handled these cases to avoid further infections. 

In an interview with Hubei Daily on Sunday, Tu Yuanchao, deputy head of the Health Commission of Hubei Province, said that because the recovered patients were already reported when they tested positive for the first time, so there's no need to report it as a new case even if they are tested positive again. 

He said that the provincial government has arranged family doctors to regularly check recovered patients and there are designated hospitals to treat recovered patients who have been tested positive again.

If any recovered patient tests positive again, Tu said, those who show symptoms like coughing and fever, will be transferred to hospital immediately and those who don't will be put in quarantine for two weeks and released if they show no symptoms.

Wuhan Municipal Health Commission also held a meeting on Monday to address those concerns.

According to the press release posted on its official website, people who were tested positive but showed no symptoms seemingly pose low risks of transmission. So they are usually just put under a 14-day quarantine and reported as new cases if they start to show symptoms, the commission said.

Most people who tested positive but showed no symptoms recovered without any medical treatment, the commission said.

According to China's National Health Commission, as of midnight Monday, accumulatively 73,159 patients have recovered out of  81,171 confirmed cases. 

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