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Why that Chinese Research was retracted: Administration Cited Study as Showing Chinese tests were flawed; that’s not what the study actually said.


(image courtesy of and Ri_Ya)

Here’s the link to the story in NPR.  It provides many details on the study and the Administration’s flawed attempt to cite it as a reason for the US developing its own test.  The conclusion they drew is that the reasons why the study was retracted have not been revealed.  According to the NPR:

Without access to the paper, nobody can assess the value of the work or determine whether it suffers from a scientific flaw. It’s also unknown if the paper was retracted for political reasons. That’s a possibility, though it was retracted well before U.S. officials started citing it in public in a way that disparaged the Chinese coronavirus test.

The study cited a 47% positivity rate in asymptomatic close contacts of ill patients.  This number may well be accurate, although since the retraction, we cannot rely upon it.  The revelation that asymptomatic people can carry and transmit the virus in a quarter to a third of cases puts this in perspective.  The possibility is that many positive-tested patients are asymptomatic, and in this perspective, a 47% number is not so questionable.

The study may have been retracted for political reasons, namely the Chinese government’s attempts to cover up the fact that they have not included asymptomatic positive-testing people in their case counts.  As of today, the Chinese will start to include such patients in their case counts.  When they announced the coming change, they revealed that roughly 1,500 people were currently in quarantine for positive tests but lacking in symptoms (roughly a third of the total under isolation).

So it’s speculation, but I say that it’s possible that the retraction was not due to scientific inaccuracy, but for the way it made the Chinese government “look bad” or made them lose face.  The Chinese are extremely sensitive, and they have an enveloping censorship that makes the true facts very hard to ascertain.  The epidemic in China may have been much worse than they were willing to admit, and it may be continuing despite their best efforts.


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