Wuhan still finding symptom-free virus cases

Virus carriers without symptoms complicate containment efforts


BEIJING • People are still testing positive for the new coronavirus in Wuhan four days after China said there have been no new cases at the epicentre of its outbreak, a local magazine reported, raising concerns that the virus could still be spreading in the city.

“There are still a few or a dozen asymptomatic people every day,” an unidentified official at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in yesterday’s article by Caixin, referring to those who have the virus but don’t display any symptoms. “It can’t be determined whether transmission has been completely cut off in Wuhan,” the official said.

People who have caught the virus but don’t display symptoms such as cough, fever and muscle pain have been reported in several countries as the pathogen has spread to almost all parts of the world, killing more than 15,000 (at press time) and sickening more than 340,000. These asymptomatic carriers appear to be able to transmit the virus to others, according to experts, complicating efforts to stop its spread.

Unlike other countries like South Korea, which counts everyone who’s tested positive as a confirmed case, China does not include asymptomatic infections in its official count. It also does not disclose the number of people in this category, raising concerns that its much-publicised drop to zero new cases last week cannot be taken at face value.

More than 43,000 people tested positive for the virus by the end of February without displaying immediate symptoms, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported on Sunday, citing classified Chinese government data.

The asymptomatic cases in Wuhan were found when patients were admitted to hospitals for medical observation after coming into close contact with confirmed infections, working at quarantine venues or at places with elevated risks of exposure, Caixin reported. Once identified, they were isolated for two weeks and will be classified as confirmed cases if they show symptoms.

Doctors and nurses who were sent to Wuhan are now leaving the city after the official count of new infections reached zero, but officials from the CDC have been asked to stay for a longer period of time as Beijing is still concerned with the situation in Wuhan and the broader Hubei region, Caixin reported.

Iceland, which says it’s tested a higher proportion of inhabitants than any other country, found that about half those who tested positive have no symptoms of Covid-19, Thorolfur Gudnason, the nation’s chief epidemiologist, told BuzzFeed News. The data obtained by SCMP showed as many as a third of the people in China who tested positive at the time showed delayed symptoms or none at all. — Bloomberg