Yesterday, when China shockingly reported a huge jump in new Coronavirus infections due to a “change in definition” of how it counted confirmed cases, resulting in a surge of nearly 15,000 new infections in Hubei alone, it made a mistake: it also reported a surge in new deaths, which more than doubled from under 100 to around 250, and which represent a state of existence (traditionally the final one) that is entirely definition independent.
As we pointed out at the time, while China “can now claim it wants to be more transparent (which is odd for a nation that is still refusing to admit the US CDC on the ground) and wants a more comprehensive definition of “infection” because it is suddenly so concerned about all those people it ordered to go back to work on Monday, it somehow also changed the definition of “death”, because at the same time as the explosion in new cases, which clearly indicates that the pandemic is now clearly out of control, the number of reported deaths in Hubei alone spiked by 242 to 1,310.“
One day later China appears to have realized just how flagrant this “mistake” – which exposed the lie which Chinese officials had used until now to avoid a panic, and reset the infection count to a sharply higher number – was, because even as Hubei reported an additional 4,823 cases as of Thursday (and the Chinese National Health Commission said this number was up 5,090 for all of China), there was some major confusion about what the actual number of deaths was.
In its official daily update on the coronavirus epidemic on Thursday, Feb 13 – the day of the great surge in infections and deaths – the NHC reported that across all of China, there was an increase of 242 death cases in China, of which 216 in Wuhan to 1,367 (link to original page here)….
… which is bizarre, because one day later, in its latest update from Friday, Feb 14, the NHC said that while the number of deaths – which as of Thursday recall were 1,367 (see above) – increased by 121, the total number of declared deaths across China was just 1,380 (link to original page here).
In other words, somehow the jump from 1,367 deaths to 1,380 was an increase of 121 deaths!?
But don’t take our word for it: here is JPMorgan’s official count of all related data as of this morning, showing that indeed, as of Feb 13 (so for Feb 12), there was a total of 1,367 deaths reported by the National Health Commission.
Is this just pro-forma, adjusted death math with Chinese characteristics?
As it turns out no, because recall that while China may have reset the number of new cases sharply higher, it certainly did not mean to also send the number of deaths surging, as it would means that this had nothing to do with a change in the definition of infection, and everything to do with undercounting the number of infected and dead.
So what did Beijing do?
Well, as the NHC “explained” in its Friday statement, that 242 increase in deaths officially reported on Thursday somehow also included 108 deaths that were “double counted.” There was no explanation how or why it was possible to “double count” a death. Which of course, it isn’t and what really happened is that China, having realized its glaring mistake which prompted us to mock its “data” yesterday, had to quickly cut by roughly half the surge in Thursday deaths to make the progression in the number of new deaths “smooth.” And sure enough, this is what the revised death chart looks like after the “double counting” revision: compare the chart up top of the number in new deaths before today’s “revision”, with what the death number looks like now, after the latest “data.”
Much better, right?
Well, no, because without an explanation as to how one can “double count” a dead body, all Beijing has succeeded in doing is validating that all of its so-called data is just fake, goalseeked bullshit meant to keep the mortality rate at 2.1% where it had been for weeks until the sudden burst higher into Thursday’s massive data revision.
Indeed, one wonders if the entire set of “statistics” used by China in its coronavirus reporting is merely goalseeked off keeping the mortality rate at 2.1%, while any excess, “double-counted” dead bodies, are promptly incinerated in the local crematorium (which in the past three weeks has been working 24/7), with the cause of death given simple as “pneumonia.”
In any case, the impressive revision lower in deaths was enough to boost US equity futures as algos saw the number and rushed to buy stocks because the fake Chinese data is once again giving the impression that the pandemic is being contained, even if the only place that’s happening is inside the computer of some communist party appartchik in Beijing tasked with a simple mission: massage and manipulate the report to avoid a panic while preserving some credibility.
Alas, today’s “double counting” of the dead was the straw that finally broke the camel’s back and going forward nothing the Chinese government says can ever again be trusted by humans. However, since algos are exempt, they will keep buying stocks as Beijing once again gives the impression – using carefully goalseeked numbers – that the pandemic is increasingly contained, even as China’s entire economy has ground to a halt, until one day the global recession unexpectedly hits and “nobody could have possibly seen it coming.”