China reports first COVID deaths weeks later as official count is questioned

China reports first COVID deaths weeks later as official count is questioned
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  • Beijing reported two deaths for the first time since December 1. 3
  • Comes after Beijing loosens anti-virus controls
  • Citizens and analysts question official figures
  • Virus surge weighs world number 1 2 economies

BEIJING, Dec 19 (Reuters) – China reported its first COVID-related deaths in weeks on Monday amid growing doubts over whether the official count of a disease ravaging cities has been fully caught after the government loosened tight anti-virus controls. .

Monday two deaths They were the first to be reported by the National Health Commission (NHC) since December. 3 days before Beijing announced it was removing curbs that had largely contained the virus for three years but triggered widespread protests last month.

Reuters reporters witnessed the hearses on Saturday. lined up in front of a designated COVID-19 crematorium Workers in hazmat suits transporting the dead in Beijing and inside the facility. Reuters was unable to immediately determine whether the deaths were caused by COVID.

A hashtag about two reported COVID deaths quickly became the hottest topic on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform on Monday.

“What do the missing statistics mean?” A user asked. Another said, “Isn’t that deceiving the public?” he wrote.

NHC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The lowest death toll since the curbs were removed was on 1 December. 7, inconsistent with the experience of other countries after similar moves. Officially, China had only 5,237 COVID-related deaths during the epidemic, including the last two deaths, a small fraction of its 1.4 billion population.

But health experts said China could pay the price for taking such stringent measures to protect a population that currently lacks natural immunity to COVID-19 and has low vaccination rates among the elderly.

Some say China’s COVID death toll over 1.5 million in the coming months

China’s respected news outlet Caixin reported on Friday that two state media reporters died after contracting COVID, followed by a 23-year-old medical student who died on Saturday. It was not immediately clear which of these deaths, if any, were included in the official death toll.

“The (official) number is clearly an undercount of COVID deaths,” said Yanzhong Huang, a global health expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, a US think tank.

This “may reflect the state’s lack of ability to effectively monitor and monitor disease status on-site after the collapse of the mass PCR testing regimen, but it may also be due to efforts to prevent mass panic due to increased COVID deaths.” said.

The NHC reported 1,995 symptomatic infections. 18 compared to 2,097 the day before.

But infection rates have also become an unreliable guideline, as much less mandatory PCR testing is being done following the recent relaxation. The NHC stopped reporting asymptomatic cases last week, citing the test drop.

Chinese stocks tumbled against the dollar on Monday as investors worried that rising COVID-19 cases would put more pressure on the world’s second-largest economy despite promises of government support.

virus sweeping on the trading floors It’s spreading fast in Beijing and financial hub Shanghai, with sickness and absenteeism scrutinizing the already light trade and forcing regulators to cancel a weekly meeting to review public stock sales.

Japanese chipmaker Renesas Electronics Corp. (6723.T) Said it was Monday Suspended work at Beijing plant due to COVID-19 infections.

AND Survey by World Economics China’s trade confidence fell to its lowest level since January 2013 in December. The Chinese economy is expected to grow 3% this year, showing its worst performance in nearly half a century.


China’s chief epidemiologist Wu Zunyou said on Saturday that the country is in the throes of the first of three expected waves of COVID this winter, which is more in line with what people say they are experiencing on the ground.

“I would say that 60-70% of my colleagues are currently infected,” said Liu, 37, a university canteen worker in Beijing.

Beijing city official Xu Hejian told reporters on Monday that COVID is spreading rapidly in the capital, putting pressure on medical resources. Xu said further restrictions would be lifted by allowing previously closed venues underground, from bars to internet cafes, to reopen.

Xu did not comment on any deaths.

Another official said Beijing will accelerate imports of COVID drugs due to shortages in pharmacies in the city. Read more

While senior officials have downplayed the threat posed by the Omicron strain of the virus in recent weeks, officials remain concerned about the elderly who are reluctant to get vaccinated.

China’s vaccination rate is over 90%, but the rate drops to 57.9% for adults who receive booster vaccinations and to 42.3% for those aged 80 and over, according to government data.

Healthcare workers in Beijing’s Shijingshan district are going door-to-door offering to vaccinate elderly residents at home, state news agency Xinhua reported.

The news prepared by Liz Lee, Martin Quin Pollard, Eduardo Baptista, Ethan Wang and Ryan Woo from Beijing and David Kirton from Shenzhen; Written by John Geddie and Marius Zaharia; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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