21 mln drop in China's mobile users may suggest higher coronavirus death toll: Report

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A major drop of 21 million cellphone users in China over the past few months may indicate a higher death toll due to the coronavirus than what the Chinese government has officially announced, a report by The Epoch Times newspaper, which opposes the Communist Party of China, suggests.

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) issued on March 19 the latest statistics of the number of phone users in each province in February 2020.

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Compared with the previous announcement, which was released on December 18, 2019, for November 2019 data, cellphone users dropped dramatically.

The number of cellphone users decreased from 1.601 billion to 1.58 billion, a drop of 21 million.

“The Chinese regime requires all Chinese to use their cellphones to generate a health code. Only with a green health code are Chinese allowed to move in China now. It’s impossible for a person to cancel his cellphone,” Tang Jingyuan, a US-based China affairs commentator, told The Epoch Times on March 21.

According to The Epoch Times, the Chinese government first launched cellphone-based health codes on March 10. All people in China were required to install a cellphone app and register their personal health information. Then the app generated a QR code, which appeared in three colors, to classify the user’s health level. Red meant the person has an infectious disease, yellow meant the person might have one, and green meant the person doesn’t.

The Chinese government had said that the health codes were intended to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The Epoch Times’ report says: “the big question is whether the dramatic drop in cellphone accounts reflects the account closings of those who have died” due to the coronavirus.

“At present, we don’t know the details of the data. If only 10 percent of the cellphone accounts were closed because the users died because of the… virus, the death toll would be 2 million,” Tang told The Epoch Times.

On March 25, the director of the Information and Communications Administration of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, Han Xia, said the drop in cellphone accounts was partly due to businesses shutting down in February in compliance with government quarantine policies, China News Network reported.

Xia added that the drop can also be explained by the fact that since telecom companies closed down their physical stores during the nationwide lockdown, people were unable to open new accounts.

However, The Epoch Times says the “reported death toll in China doesn’t line up with what can otherwise be determined about the situation there.”

It compares the death toll due to the coronavirus in Italy and China.

As of Monday, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) data, the death toll in Italy amounts to 10,781 out of 97,689 confirmed cases, and in China it’s 3,310 deaths out of total of 82,447 confirmed cases.

Read: Italy overtakes China as country with most coronavirus-related deaths

That translates to a death rate of 11.03 percent in Italy and 4.01 percent in China, despite the latter having a much larger population which was exposed to the virus.

The Epoch Times also says that “seven funeral homes in the city of Wuhan (the epicenter of the outbreak) were reported to be burning bodies 24 hours a day, seven days a week in late January,” and that “Hubei province has used 40 mobile cremators, each capable of burning five tons of medical waste and bodies a day, since February 16.”

The report adds: “Lacking data, the real death toll in China is a mystery. The cancellation of 21 million cellphones provides a data point that suggests the real number may be far higher than the official number.”

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