China’s National Health Commission (NHC) announced Wednesday it has more than 1,300 asymptomatic coronavirus cases, the first time it has acknowledged cases of people testing positive for the virus but not showing symptoms.
At a news briefing in Beijing, commission spokesman Mi Feng said the 1,367 asymptomatic cases were under quarantine and medical observation.
The commission had said Tuesday it would begin releasing figures on asymptomatic cases in response to “public concern” about the figures.
The French news agency AFP reports there had been mass calls online for the NHC to release the information after it was reported an infected woman in Henan province had been exposed to three asymptomatic cases.
While the proportion of people who have contracted the virus but remain asymptomatic is currently unknown, scientists say these "carriers" can still pass COVID-19 onto others who do end up getting sick.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But the virus can also lead to more serious symptoms and even death.