Is China hiding COVID-19 death toll? 21 million cell phones disappeared, why?

  • 21 million cell phone accounts in China were cancelled after coronavirus

  • 840,000 landlines were closed in China

  • This sudden drop suggests a very high Coronavirus death toll

Since the outbreak of Novel Coronavirus which emerged in China's Wuhan, the pandemic has killed 15,374 people globally and infected 351,731 individuals. Recently the death toll in Italy surpassed the initial epicentre of the outbreak in China, where officially 3,153 people have died due to the COVID-19.

But recently Beijing authorities announced on March 19 that more than 21 million cell phone accounts were cancelled while in past three months 840,000 landlines were closed in China, which gives an idea that probably these closed numbers belonged to the people who died due to the disease.

Tang Jingyuan, a US-based China Affairs commentator told The Epoch Times on March 21:

"The digitization level is very high in China. People can't survive without a cell phone. Dealing with the government for pensions and social security, buying train tickets, shopping... no matter what people want to do, they are required to use cell phones.

"The Chinese regime requires all Chinese use their cell phones 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 cell phone."

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A woman holding her iPhone device Reuters

China telecom stats

The Chinese authority introduced mandatory facial scans on December 1, 2019, to confirm the identity of the person who registered the phone. The people in China also have to sync their bank accounts and social security account with their cell phone as all the apps can detect the SIM card and then check with the database to make sure the number belongs to the person.

In China, it is mandatory to install a cell phone app and register their personal health information. The app can generate a QR code which is possible in three colours to classify a person's health condition. In this case, red means the person has an infectious disease, while yellow and green represent the possibility of infectious disease and no sign of such illness respectively.

Beijing claimed that the health code has helped China to prevent the spread of Coronavirus in the country where 81,496 people got infected by the COVID-19.

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Picture for representation Reuters

What about 21 million cell phone accounts?

On March 19, China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) announced the numbers of cell phone users in every province in February. When these numbers are compared to the December 2019 data, it revealed that both cell phone users and landline users dropped dramatically.

The comparison showed that the number of cell phone users decreased from 1.600957 billion to 1.579927 billion, while landline users dropped from 190.83 million to 189.99 million.

It is possible that the nationwide lockdown in February was the reason behind the drop in the numbers of landline users as many companies were shut down, the quarantine scenario can't be a reason behind the drop in the cell phone users.

It should be noted that as per the reports China Telecom is the second-largest carrier which has lost 5.6 million users in February 2020 and lost 0.43 million users in January 2020. China Unicom also lost 1.186 million users in January 2020.

While the drop in these numbers showed a dramatic scenario in China, Tang said, "It's possible that some migrant workers had two cell phone numbers before. One is from their hometown, and the other is from the city they work in. In February, they might close the number in the city they work in because they couldn't go there."

It is possible that these workers may have gone to their home city for the Chinese New Year and after the travel ban, they did not get a chance to come back to China. It should be noted that in China there is a basic monthly fee to hold a cell phone account and the majority of migrant workers, who belong to the lowest income group, likely only have one cell phone account.

The economic downturn caused by the outbreak could have forced the Chinese people, who have two cell phones to cancel one of them.

While explaining the scenario in China, Tang said,"At present, we don't know the details of the data. If only 10 percent of the cell phone accounts were closed because the users died because of the CCP virus [Novel Coronavirus], the death toll would be two million."

This article was first published on March 24, 2020
Related topics : Coronavirus