After WHO Criticism, China Reports a Sharp Increase in Covid Deaths

by Wall Street Rebel - Michael London | 01/16/2023 8:15 AM
After WHO Criticism, China Reports a Sharp Increase in Covid Deaths

Chinese officials revised the death toll from the recent coronavirus epidemic significantly upwards on Saturday, from a few dozen to roughly 59,938 COVID-19-related deaths since December, when pandemic restrictions were loosened.


China reported almost 60,000 coronavirus-related deaths on Saturday, a month after the nation relaxed its "zero Covid" policy, speeding up an epidemic that has likely infected millions. This is the first time China has given an official measurement of the Covid epidemic now sweeping the nation, and it marks a significant increase in the official death toll.

Since the virus first emerged, China has been cautious about disclosing the number of cases, notably fatalities, due to political concerns. Hospitals, morgues, and crematoriums were reportedly flooded with dead, and videos and posts on social media revealed the latest death toll statistics. According to media reports, bereaved families were urged to simply leave remains at morgues without being given specific dates for cremation and that the ashes would be returned to them after that.

Since the epidemic first appeared in the city of Wuhan in late 2019, China has only recorded and made official a total of 5,272 fatalities involving Covid related deaths up until this past Saturday. The revised number, which was revealed on Saturday, includes those who had Covid and those who had died from other underlying conditions. This metric was carefully defined as mortality due to the COVID virus, namely pneumonia or respiratory failure.

In response to allegations from local and provincial governments in China that imply hundreds of millions of individuals in that country may have been infected with the virus, the World Health Organization and other countries have issued a call for further information.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin responded to WHO criticism, saying that China has been releasing Covid data in "a timely, open and transparent way in compliance with the law." This comes after China and the WHO have been holding technical talks over the last month.

Even though this number far exceeds the few dozen deaths that were previously recorded in the official tally — which drew widespread criticism both at home and abroad, including from the World Health Organization — experts say that it is still likely to be an underestimate given the enormous scale of the outbreak and the mortality rates that were seen at the height of omicron waves in other countries that initially pursued a Covid Zero strategy. Even though this number has greatly exceeded the few dozen deaths that were previously recorded in the official tally

Before the announcement was made public, China said there had been 37 COVID-related fatalities in the country since it ended its "zero Covid" policy on December 7. When this occurred, the statement had not yet been made.

Since China reopened its borders, several countries, most notably Japan and South Korea, have imposed limits on the ability of Chinese tourists to come to their countries as a consequence of the lack of openness that the Chinese government has shown. The specialists also cautioned against playing down the severity of the pandemic, as this might lead individuals who are already residing in the country to take fewer precautions to protect themselves against the disease.

According to the spokeswoman for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mao Ning, "certain nations have adopted admission restrictions targeting just Chinese visitors." "There is no evidence to support this, and some behaviors are reprehensible."

Beijing referred to the regulations as "discriminatory," even though they apply to all tourists departing from China, regardless of whether they have had vaccinations or where they are from. Mao added that the type that was spreading across China "had previously been detected abroad before," yet despite this, other nations were still implementing restrictions.

Several nations, notably India, have requested negative PCR tests to be administered to passengers from China. Beijing has condemned this request as being politically biased and has warned of possible retaliation. In addition, a prominent Chinese epidemiologist has warned that there would be an increase in the number of illnesses in rural China during the Spring Festival and the Chinese New Year beginning on January 22.

Millions of Chinese nationals are returning to their hometowns and other tourist attractions in other parts of the country. Approximately forty days' worth of festivities is planned in honor of this momentous anniversary. There have already been tens of millions of passengers who have embarked on their voyages, and it is predicted that there will be a total of approximately two billion trips done by passengers this year. In China, the peak of the Covid wave is expected to last for between two and three months, as stated by Zeng Guang, a former head of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control.

According to a story published by the New York Times on January 3, 2023, some estimations indicated estimates from national health experts that the virus had spread to 250 million individuals during the first 20 days of December.

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China's "zero-COVID" approach, which intended to isolate every case, allowed the country to keep its infection rate and death toll far lower than those of the United States and several other nations during the height of the epidemic. This resulted in access being cut off to some cities, which locked millions of people inside their homes and caused heated demonstrations. This method was implemented for over three years.

After some of the most significant demonstrations of popular discontent against the Communist Party in power in more than 30 years, these prohibitions were unexpectedly loosened at the beginning of December. This posed significant challenges in a nation where the vaccines used are homegrown and hence less effective than those used elsewhere and where the elderly, who are at greater risk of dying from the virus, are less likely to get vaccinated than younger people. Because of this, additional challenges have arisen in a country where the vaccinations used are those created locally, which are less effective than those used internationally.

According to the Health Commission, the average age of those who have passed away since December 8 is 80.3, and 90.1% are 65 or older. It was said that over ninety percent of those who passed away had some kind of cancer, heart, lung, or renal ailment.

"The number of senior patients dying from sickness is rather high, which shows that we should pay more attention to elderly patients and do our best to preserve their lives," said Jiao. "There are a lot of elderly patients dying from illness."

An official from China's National Health Commission named Jiao Yahui said at a press conference in Beijing that the country has reported 59,938 fatalities connected to Covid between December 8 and January 12. This number comprised 5,503 persons who passed away as a direct result of the effects of Covid on their respiratory systems. According to Ms. Jiao, an additional 54,435 deaths might be attributed to various underlying diseases.

According to Ms. Jiao, China could not provide the statistics on fatalities connected to Covid earlier because it needed a complete investigation into hospital reporting.

Ms. Jiao said that since "we gathered professionals to perform a systematic investigation on the fatality cases," the process required a great deal of time.

It was unclear if the increased data reflect that China has altered the method it announces Covid fatalities to include those with preexisting disorders whose symptoms were exacerbated by the virus or whether they simply mean that more deaths have been reported. Officials have insisted that the only deaths that count toward China's official toll are those that were caused by pneumonia or respiratory failure caused by the COVID virus. Other nations, such as the United States and Britain, have a broader approach when counting the fatalities of Covid.

The experts agreed it was too soon to tell if China had altered its strategy, but they praised the government's decision to give further data.

China has only recorded a small number of fatalities caused by infectious illnesses, such as SARS in 2003 and seasonal flu. During the lockdown in Shanghai in the spring of 2022, however, the authorities established an exception and used a narrower definition to justify the prolonged imprisonment of the city's population. One of the 588 fatalities of Covids that the government of Shanghai recorded at that time was attributed to a heart attack, while the other 587 deaths were attributed to "underlying disorders" or "tumors." Despite this discrepancy, the National Health Commission has never removed those fatalities from the overall count of fatalities caused by Covid in the country.

The findings of the National Health Commission gave credence to long-held concerns that an epidemic would severely impact China's elderly population due to the fact that so many did not obtain enough vaccination doses. 56.5 percent of the deaths included someone who was at least 80 years old.

Because China's top leader, Xi Jinping, had championed a policy of strict lockdowns, quarantines, and mass testing to attempt to limit the virus, the deaths of Covid are a particularly sensitive political problem in the nation. Mr. Xi claimed that the concept might be replicated in other countries when it was shown to be effective in preventing the spread of the epidemic in its early stages.

He based his estimate on data from Peking University's National School of Development, which revealed that 64% of the population was infected by the middle of January, and he calculated that 900,000 people would have died in the preceding five weeks based on a modest 0.1% case fatality rate. This estimate was based on the report's finding that 64% of the population had been infected by the middle of January. This means that the total number of fatalities documented by the official hospital count accounts for fewer than 7% of the overall mortality experienced throughout the epidemic.

According to an estimate by Bloomberg, the official death toll equates to 1.17 fatalities daily for every million people in the nation over the period of five weeks. Who is significantly lower than the daily average death rate recorded in other nations that originally sought Covid Zero or managed to control the virus after loosening their pandemic policies?

After the omicron virus struck South Korea, the number of persons dying every day increased to roughly seven for every million people. During their first winters with omicron, Australia and New Zealand had fatality rates that came close to or perhaps beyond four per million per day. Even Singapore, which had a well-planned and steady transition away from its zero-tolerance strategy, saw a high of almost two fatalities per million people per day during this time period.

She noted that while China's most recent revelation only recorded fatalities in hospitals, it's possible that a large number of the country's deaths occurred in nursing care facilities or at home, which would explain part of the undercount. Crematoriums all around the nation are reportedly at capacity, which lends credence to the notion that there is a significant surplus of deaths.

Officials have said that they anticipate an increase in the number of fatalities as the virus continues its inexorable march throughout the nation. This is because fatality rates often trail infections by a few weeks. According to Ali Mokdad, a professor at the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation and the University of Washington's chief strategy officer for population health, the Lunar New Year Holiday begins on January 22 and involves millions of people traveling to their hometowns, which could spread the virus.

According to Mokdad, the modeling efforts of the organization estimate that there will be 1.2 million to 1.6 million fatalities in China by the end of 2023. This estimate is contingent on the mitigation measures that the nation decides to put into place.

However, when the extremely contagious Omicron strain spread worldwide in 2018, that tactic proved impossible to implement. Protests broke out in November as more individuals became tired of the limits placed on Covid as the number of cases continued to rise rapidly throughout the nation. China then quickly altered its "zero Covid" policy without offering the rest of the world a chance to store up medication at a time when the global economy was already under significant pressure.

Officials have stated in recent days that the peak number of infections has been reached in major cities, but there is growing concerned about how the current wave of coronavirus will affect the nation's countryside, which has a significantly less developed healthcare system in comparison to China's cities.


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                       China's 60,000 Covid-Related Death Toll Spurs Calls for More Data

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