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Internationally lost COVID-19 cases



With its epicenter in Wuhan, China, the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). While many countries have implemented flight restrictions to China, an increasing number of cases with or without travel background to China are confirmed daily. These developments support concerns on possible unidentified and unreported international COVID-19 cases, which could lead to new local disease epicenters.


We have analyzed all available data on the development of international COVID-19 cases from January 20th, 2020 until February 18th, 2020. COVID-19 cases with and without travel history to China were divided into cohorts according to the Healthcare Access and Quality Index (HAQ-Index) of each country. Chi-square and Post-hoc testing were performed.


While COVID-19 cases with travel history to China seem to peak for each HAQ-cohort, the number of non-travel related COVID-19 cases seem to continuously increase in the HAQ-cohort of countries with higher medical standards. Further analyses demonstrate a significantly lower proportion of reported COVID-19 cases without travel history to China in countries with lower HAQ (HAQ I vs. HAQ II, posthoc p < 0.01).


Our data indicate that countries with lower HAQ-index may either underreport COVID-19 cases or are unable to adequately detect them. Although our data may be incomplete and must be interpreted with caution, inconsistencies in reporting COVID-19 cases is a serious problem which might sabotage efforts to contain the virus.

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