The World Health Organization on Friday said that several nations may follow China in increasing their tolls once the crisis brought on by coronavirus is under control. Covid-19 has affected 22.43 lakh people, and caused 1.54 lakh deaths worldwide, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker.

China’s Wuhan city, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, on Friday abruptly raised its toll from the pandemic by 50%, from 2,579 to 3,869. The country admitted that many cases were “mistakenly reported” or missed entirely.

During a daily media briefing in Geneva on Friday, WHO Covid-19 technical lead Maria Van Kerkhove said: “This is something that is a challenge in an ongoing outbreak: to identify all of your cases and all of your deaths. I would anticipate that many countries are going to be in a similar situation where they will have to go back and review records and look to see: did we capture all of them?”

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The WHO official said China’s toll was revised so that no cases go undocumented. “They looked at the funeral service systems,” she said. “They looked at hospital systems. They looked at laboratories to see if there were any duplications or if there were any cases missing.” She added that it was pertinent to ascertain the number of Covid-19 deaths as it “is of public health importance”.

Van Kerkhove added that Wuhan authorities went over their databases and cross-checked for discrepancies that led to the revised toll. She attributed the error to Wuhan’s healthcare system being swamped, adding that a few patients died at home while a few others in temporary facilities. The paperwork for these deaths were not completed in time, she said.

The WHO’s emergencies director Michael Ryan also added that all nations will face similar scenarios. However, he appealed to the countries to produce accurate data as early as possible “because that keeps us on top of what the impact is, and allows us to project forward in a much more accurate way.”

After China revised the numbers, the nationwide toll increased by nearly 39% to 4,632, based on official national data released on Friday. Authorities explained the updation by noting that some hospitals were overwhelmed early in the outbreak, leading to cases being incorrectly reported, delayed, or omitted.

The updated figure came after weeks of scepticism about the reported deaths, as other countries have seen fatalities reach more than 10,000. On Wednesday, AP had reported that Wuhan had also hosted a mass banquet on the occasion of the Lunar New Year for tens of thousands of people, six days before the Chinese government made it public that a pandemic had broken out.