An article in the Guardian from a day or two ago detailed how Europe was wringing its hands over China’s potentially misreported COVID-19 statistics. I’ve been watching this for a long time, and in case you might think that China is just slightly under-reporting their COVID-19 deaths then take a look at the diagram below. These are all countries/provinces between 30 and 40 N. Latitude, so there ought not be any huge differences due to their region.
How to read this chart:
- My intent is to show which countries have sizeable populations in this region at the same time as visualizing their COVID-19 deaths. I have sorted from smallest to greatest number of deaths and you can see that plotted from left to right. The pink deaths columns have a transparency that allows the blue population bars to shine through… when this union between the two happens it has a maroon look to it.
- Both the left and the right y-axis are in the Logarithmic Scale. I did this because of the huge range of populations and the range of deaths, all the way from 0 (Tibet) to 22,524 (Spain). The Logarithmic scale lets us see all the data. Keep in mind, the logarithmic scale means that the lowest range is from 1 to 10 deaths, the next one ranges from 10 to 100, etc.
- Understanding this, we see there are 16 regions in this Latitude Band with less than 10 COVID-19 deaths to date. Of these, 2 are NOT in China (Jordan, Syria) and have a combined population of about 27 Million (and Syria probably has cases/deaths but due to Civil War state they’re likely not keeping records).
- This means there are 14 regions in this band with less than 10 deaths that ARE provinces in China. They have a combined population of about 450 million people. This is about 100 million people greater than the entire United States.
- So, to believe that China is reporting COVID-19 data responsibly, you also have to believe 1) that only one country on Earth (maybe 2 if you want to count North Korea) has solved this problem across essentially all but one or two of their provinces. (By the way, a chart from 20-30 N. Latitude looks just like this one, with essentially no deaths in Chinese provinces). And as you note from the graph, the population density of the graph is largely clustered on the left, no-deaths side. Therefore, you’d also have to believe that 2) this one country has accomplished this on a monumental scale across over 1 Billion citizens. This would be an amazing accomplishment of organization, communication, and synchronization of data and information across the largest country on Earth. Oh, and also, you’d have to believe that 3) they only had a slip-up in one province, Hubei, where the virus originated (and they’ve already revised death numbers upwards). Perhaps these numbers would be plausible if 4) there was some factor in the genetics of the Chinese people that protected them from COVID-19 or if they had a historical immunity to COVID-19 (in every province except Hubei…) from a previous undocumented outbreak…
- To believe that China is faking their data, you pretty much just have to disbelieve any of the above points. They have 5 provinces on this chart totaling 117 million people who are advertising a collective zero deaths right in a latitude range with around 43% of the worlds COVID-19 deaths. Yes, they have a disciplined society and the Communist Party can take a lot of control, but there are countries with similar cultures and governmental organizations that are reporting more believable numbers.
This obviously isn’t helpful as we’re trying to learn more about this virus and its impact. And it’s not even remotely believable. Sure seems like a bad political strategy on the part of China.
Here’s the same chart for the Latitude range from 20 to 30 N. Latitude. As you can see, the results are similar. One difference for this region is that it hasn’t been as hard hit as 30-40 N latitude.