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The Epoch Times and Breitbart News reported on “the troubling disappearance of some 21 million cell phone accounts in China over the past three months.”

Phones have been an important tool for containing the coronavirus epidemic, the report adds. This underscores why it would be unusual for users to stop using cell phones.

In the coronavirus pandemic, the official count from China is 3,277 fatalities from 81,171 infections as of Tuesday. However, The Epoch Times suggests the disapperance in cell phones is an “unprecedented decline,” which may suggest that there are “more fatalities than Beijing is prepared to admit.”

From the Epoch Times:

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) announced on March 19 the number of phone users in each province in February. Compared with the previous announcement, which was released on Dec. 18, 2019, for November 2019 data, both cellphone and landline users dropped dramatically. In the same period the year before, the number of users increased.

The number of cellphone users decreased from 1.600957 billion to 1.579927 billion, a drop of 21.03 million. The number of landline users decreased from 190.83 million to 189.99 million, a drop of 840,000.

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In the previous February, the number increased. According to MIIT, the number of cellphone users increased in February 2019 from 1.5591 billion to 1.5835 billion, which is 24.37 million more. The number of landline users increased from 183.477 million to 190.118 million, which is 6.641 million more.

According to China’s National Bureau of Statistics, the country’s population at the end of 2019 was 4.67 million larger than in 2018, reaching 1.40005 billion.



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More from Breitbart:

It should be stated at the outset that we should not be forced to read tea leaves to figure out what really happened in China, especially in the virus epicenter of Hubei province and the city of Wuhan, where Chinese officials are currently making claims of zero new infections that no one seriously believes. While more responsible governments issue troubling warnings of a second wave of infections, severe enough to prompt the re-imposition of quarantine procedures that were only recently lifted, China claims it has no second wave and all of its new coronavirus cases are imported…

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The article went on to postulate that some of the landlines might have been shut down as a consequence of the coronavirus quarantines, particularly lines used by shuttered business operations, but the sheer magnitude of the cell phone user decline makes it more difficult to explain. China Mobile, the nation’s largest carrier, reported gaining 3.7 million new accounts in December but then losing over 8 million in January and February, months in which it posted gains of 3.5 million users the previous year.

The Epoch Times considered several explanations for the loss of users, such as migrant workers who kept different cell phones for their home and work cities – necessary due to some of China’s regulations on phone service – abandoning the work phone because it was not needed during the quarantine period, or people generally canceling their phone service because they wanted to save money during the hard months.

On the other hand, the government is currently requiring citizens to use their cell phones to generate “health codes” so their movements can be tracked and permission to travel can be restricted to healthy individuals, so as U.S.-based commentator Tang Jiangyuan put it, it is effectively “impossible for a person to cancel his cellphone.”

“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,” Tang noted.