WHO accuses China of ‘underrepresenting’ violence of the covid epidemic and senior global health officials urged Beijing to share more data on the explosive spread, while criticizing its “narrow” definition of what constitutes the Covid death.
“We keep asking. Chinese “For faster, regular, reliable data on hospitalizations and deaths, as well as more comprehensive, real-time virus sequencing,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a news conference in Geneva on Wednesday.
“WHO is concerned about the risk to life in China and reiterates the importance of vaccination, including booster doses, to protect against hospitalization, severe illness and death,” he said.
Speaking in more detail, Mike Ryan, WHO Executive Director of Health Emergencies, said that the current figures released by China “underrepresent the true impact of the disease” in terms of hospital and intensive care unit admissions and deaths.
He acknowledged that many countries are experiencing delays in reporting hospital data, but China’s definition of “narrow” of a Covid death as part of the issue.
The country only lists Covid patients who succumbed to respiratory failure as dead from Covid. In the two weeks before January 4, China reported fewer than 20 deaths from local Covid cases, according to figures published on the website of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Struggling with China’s tight control over data access throughout the pandemic, WHO officials are increasingly vocalizing calls for reliable information amid a massive epidemic ravaging China’s urban centers after the sudden relaxation of disease controls last month.
There, the epidemic overflowing hospitals and crematoriumsIt has triggered a shortage of essential medicines and ignited fears of an even darker month ahead, as experts warn it will spread to less-resourced rural areas during the upcoming Lunar New Year.
The rise in cases in a country of 1.4 billion has also raised global concerns about the potential emergence of new variants and China’s levels of data monitoring and sharing. Covid implemented in some economies testing requirements For travelers from China, citing the lack of data on strains circulating there.
The Swedish presidency “strongly urged” member states of the European Union on Wednesday to impose a negative Covid test requirement for travelers traveling from China to the EU.
Tedros of the WHO said on Wednesday that it is “understandable” that some countries are taking these steps, “while the circulation in China is very high and there is not comprehensive data”.
Chinese health officials presented the latest genomic data to a WHO advisory body during a closed meeting on Tuesday. The organ said on Wednesday that variants detected there are known and circulating in other countries, with no new variants yet reported by the Chinese CDC.
But the group and WHO officials continued to stress the need for more future genomic data. The latest situation adds to longstanding challenges for the UN body, which has faced criticism for not pushing China hard enough for data at the start of the pandemic, amid concerns that Beijing is hiding critical information. Beijing has repeatedly defended its transparency.
“As we enter this fourth year, there is much more data to share from China and also around the world so that we can track this outbreak,” Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s Covid technical lead, said on Wednesday.
“We need more information on sequencing across the country and for sharing these sequences with public databases like GISAID so that deeper analysis can be done,” he said. GISAID is a global initiative that provides access to genomic data of different influenza viruses.
WHO officials said that information on the outbreak in China will also be shared with WHO member countries at a wider meeting on Thursday.
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