China announces first deaths from COVID in China within weeks, official count is questioned

China has reported the first COVID-related death in China for weeks. There are growing doubts about whether this official count captures the true toll of the disease. The virus is ravaging cities since the government loosens anti-virus control.

Monday’s deaths were first reported by the National Health Commission since Dec. 3. This was days after Beijing declared that it would lift curbs that had kept the virus under control for over three years, but which triggered protests across the country last month.

On Saturday, Reuters reporters witnessed hearses lining up in front of a COVID-19-designated crematorium in Beijing. Workers in hazmat suits carried the bodies inside. Reuters couldn’t immediately determine if these deaths were caused by COVID.

On Monday, a hashtag about the COVID deaths became quickly the most popular topic on China’s Weibo platform.

What’s the use of incompletive statistics? One user asked. Another user wrote, “Is this not cheating the public?”

A request for comments was not received by the NHC immediately.

This is in contrast to the experiences of countries that have made similar decisions. China’s official death toll from the COVID pandemic is 5,237, which includes the two latest deaths, and this represents a small fraction of the country’s 1.4 billion inhabitants.

However, experts in health have suggested that China could be forced to take more stringent steps to protect a population without natural immunity against COVID-19.

Many fear that China’s death toll from COVID could reach 1.5 million within the next few months.

Caixin, a respected Chinese news agency reported Friday that two journalists from state media had succumbed to COVID. On Saturday, a medical student aged 23 died. Official death tolls did not include these deaths, and it was unclear if they were.

Yanzhong Huang (a global health specialist with the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C.) stated that “the official number of COVID deaths is clear to undercount.”

He said that while this “may be due to the inability of states to track and monitor disease on the ground following the collapsed mass PCR testing system, it could also reflect panic about the increase of COVID deaths.”

NHC recorded 1,995 symptoms for December 18, as compared to 2,097 the day before.

However, infection rates are now an uncertain guide because less mandatory PCR testing has been conducted since the recent easing. Last week, the NHC reported that asymptomatic patients were no longer being reported by them due to a drop in testing.

China’s stock markets fell on Monday and the yuan was weaker against the dollar. Investors were concerned about the impact of rising COVID-19 claims on China’s second largest economy, despite promises of support from the government.

It was quickly spreading through Beijing’s trading floors and rapidly spreading to Shanghai, the financial center of China. The illness and absence caused a decrease in trade in light and forced regulators cancelling a weekly meeting that vetted public shares sales.

Renesas Electronics Corp., a Japanese chipmaker, announced Monday that it has suspended all work at the Beijing plant because of COVID-19 infection.

World Economics’ Monday survey showed that China’s confidence in business fell to its lowest level since January 2013, according to a report. China’s economy will grow by 3% in 2013, its lowest performance for nearly 50 years.

China’s Chief Epidemiologist Wu Zunyou said Saturday that the country is currently experiencing the first three COVID waves this winter. This was closer to what the ground was reporting.

Liu, a Beijing university canteen worker aged 37, said that 60-70% are infected. He requested to be identified using his surname.

Xu Hejian, a Beijing official said Monday that COVID had spread quickly in Beijing and was putting strain on the city’s medical resources. Xu stated that more restrictions would be removed, and previously closed venues, including bars, internet cafes, will now be allowed to reopen.

Xu did not comment on fatalities.

Another official stated that Beijing would increase imports of COVID drugs to address shortages at the city’s pharmacy. Continue reading

Officials have tried to downplay the danger posed by Omicron virus strain in the last weeks. However, authorities are still concerned about elderly people who were reluctant to be vaccinated.

China has a high vaccination rate of over 90%. However, the rates for adults who have had booster shots fall to 57.9% and 42.3% respectively for those aged 80 years and older, according to government data.

According to state news agency Xinhua, doctors have visited elderly people in the Shijingshan area of Beijing and offered them vaccinations.


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