China reports its first COVID deaths in weeks as official numbers are questioned

China reports its first COVID deaths in weeks as official numbers are questioned
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  • Beijing reported two deaths for the first time since December. 3
  • It comes after Beijing relaxed its anti-virus controls
  • Citizens, analysts question the official figures
  • Virus growth number 2 economy in the world

BEIJING, Dec 19 (Reuters) – China reported its first deaths from COVID-19 in weeks on Monday, amid growing doubts about whether the full toll of a disease spreading in cities is being recorded after the government relaxed strict anti-virus controls. .

Two deaths on Monday It was first reported by the National Health Commission (NHC) since December. Three days ago, Beijing announced the lifting of restrictions that had kept the virus under control for three years but sparked widespread protests last month.

Although on Saturday, Reuters journalists witnessed the hearses lined up outside the designated COVID-19 crematorium In Beijing and workers in hazmat suits carrying the dead inside the facility. Reuters could not immediately determine whether the deaths were from COVID.

A hashtag related to the two reported COVID deaths quickly became the top trending topic on China’s Twitter-like platform Weibo on Monday.

“What’s the point of incomplete statistics?” asked one user. “Isn’t this cheating the public?”, another wrote.

The NHC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The death toll has been low since restrictions were lifted in December. 7 does not correspond to the experience of other countries after similar actions. Officially, China has suffered a total of 5,237 COVID-related deaths during the pandemic, including the latest two deaths, a small fraction of its 1.4 billion people.

But health experts say China may now be paying a price for taking such draconian measures to protect a population with no natural immunity to COVID-19 and low vaccination rates among the elderly.

Some fear that China’s death toll from COVID could be higher It rose above 1.5 million in the coming months.

Respected Chinese news outlet Caixin reported on Friday that two state media journalists died after contracting COVID, followed by the death of a 23-year-old medical student on Saturday. It was not immediately clear which, if any, of those deaths were included in the official death toll.

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

This “may reflect the state’s inability to effectively monitor and track the disease situation on the ground following the collapse of the mass PCR testing regime, but it may also be driven by efforts to prevent mass panic over the surge in COVID deaths.” I said

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

But infection rates have also become an unreliable guide, as fewer mandatory PCR tests have been conducted since the recent easing. The NHC stopped reporting asymptomatic cases last week, citing a drop in testing.

Chinese stocks fell and the yuan weakened against the dollar as investors worried that rising cases of COVID-19 would further weigh on the world’s second-largest economy, despite promises of government support.

It was a virus sweeping trading floors Spreading rapidly in Beijing and the financial hub of Shanghai, illness and absenteeism have dampened already light trading and forced regulators to cancel a weekly meeting that monitors public stock sales.

Japanese chipmaker Renesas Electronics Corp (6723.T) he said on Monday It stopped working at its factory in Beijing Due to the COVID-19 infection.

A Survey by World Economics China’s business confidence fell to its lowest level since January 2013 in December, according to data released on Monday. China’s economy is expected to grow by 3% this year, the worst performance in nearly half a century.


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

“I would say 60-70% of my colleagues are infected now,” Liu, a 37-year-old university cafeteria worker in Beijing, told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

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

Xu did not comment on any deaths.

Beijing will speed up imports of COVID drugs amid shortages in the city’s pharmacies, another official said. read more

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

The vaccination rate in China is above 90%, but the rate drops to 57.9% for adults who receive a booster shot, and to 42.3% for people aged 80 and older.

In Beijing’s Shijingshan district, health workers offer to vaccinate elderly residents at home.

Reporting by Liz Li, Martin Quin Pollard, Eduardo Baptista, Ethan Wang and Ryan Wu in Beijing and David Kirton in Shenzhen; Written by John Geddie and Marius Zaharia; Edited by Simon Cameron-Moore

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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