China’s low covid death toll met with disbelief and ridicule


China’s unbelievably low coronavirus death toll has been the object of ridicule and anger among many in the country, who argue that the number does not reflect the true extent of grief and loss caused by the pandemic. increased infections caused.

Health authorities reported only five covid-related deaths on Tuesday and two the day before, all in Beijing. Both numbers were met with waves of skepticism on the Weibo microblogging site. “Why do people only die in Beijing? What about the rest of the country?” a user wrote.

Multiple patterns of the current outbreak, starting before an outbreak sudden loosening on coronavirus restrictions in early December, predicting a wave of infections that could kill more than 1 million, putting China on par with the total number of covid deaths in the United States. Of particular concern is the low vaccination rate in the older population, with only 42% of people over 80 years of age receiving booster shots.

Funeral homes in Beijing have been unusually busy in recent days, with some employees reporting that the cause was covid-related deaths, according to reports from the Financial Times and Associated Press. A receptionist at a funeral home in Beijing’s Shunyi district, who declined to be named, told The Post that all eight crematoriums were operating around the clock, the freezer boxes were full and there is a 5-6 day waiting list.

After the administration last week stop reporting In asymptomatic cases, word of mouth has become the primary way many people track outbreaks. The social media timelines are a continuous stream of positive test results, reversing nearly three years when most people in China had no personal experience with the virus. Hospitals have been steadily filling up, even as authorities announced measures to increase emergency care capacity.

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State Council, China’s cabinet, in early December issued updated guidance on the classification and reporting of covid-related deaths. The details of the rules have not been made public, but the prestigious Chinese publication Caixin on Saturday reported that the new procedure requires a judgment is given at a hospital and within 24 hours. Deaths deemed not directly caused by covid are not counted.

It also raises the threshold to consider an individual infected with covid. The patient must be found to have severe hypoxia or less than 93% of the arterial oxygen saturation level, both of which indicate the individual is severely hypoxic.

Wang Guiqiang, a government adviser and director of the infectious disease department at Peking University No. 1 Hospital, said the update reflected a “major change” in the nature of deaths from the variants. recently. Wang said recent variants rarely lead to respiratory failure. “The main cause of death after infection with the omicron strain is underlying diseases or old age,” he said at an official news conference on Tuesday.

Jin Dongyan, a virologist at the University of Hong Kong, said the process was in line with China’s previous death tally criteria, which have often been quite conservative since the start of the pandemic.

Jin noted that several individuals who died from underlying conditions worsened by covid were counted in an inquest. outbreak in Shanghai earlier this year, in what could have been a shift “to emphasize that many people will die of covid” and point out why the lockdown is necessary.

“Now they’re back to the old method,” Jin said, adding that the government’s lack of information makes it impossible to know the full death toll.

The deaths of those infected as they die has added to concerns that the daily numbers are too low to be trusted. A former soccer player, who local media said had covid and an underlying condition, died on a day when the official number was zero. A medical student who fell while working was also considered by commentators to be another case not included in the official figures.

As infections increase, China stops counting asymptomatic cases

Yang Linyi, 24, believes his grandfather, Yang Yongquan, should have been included in the list. Mr. Yang, 84, died of a heart attack in the western Chinese city of Chongqing on Sunday after nearly all of his primary caregivers fell ill. Yang said in an interview that that morning, he had a high fever and vomiting, leading the family to suspect in part it was the virus.

But since he was never tested, the case was automatically ruled out. “Grandpa is not officially a covid patient, but he has had covid-related complications,” Yang said. “They’ve stopped counting – too many people have been infected and too many people have died.” A simple funeral was held at a local crematorium on Monday, with many in attendance still testing positive for covid.

China’s procedures for determining whether a case is considered covid-related have remained a matter of debate throughout the pandemic. In the early days of the outbreak in Wuhan, allegations of undercounting eventually led authorities to raise the death toll to 1,290 cases. Officials denied a cover-up and said additional deaths were discovered from a thorough examination of funeral and prison records.

Aside from the damage to families, a spike in avoidable deaths would be a shame for the Chinese Communist Party, which has justified harsh lockdown measures. caused by the coronavirus by citing the great value the leadership places on saving every possible life. Officials dismissed criticism of the strict approach by highlighting how many people have died from the virus in the more developed economies of Europe and North America.

In November, the government still seemed to have started using strict containment measures, although the more contagious omicrons made the measures less and less effective. Anger over seemingly authoritarian interventions in daily life built until protests broke out later that month, spreading across the country to more than a dozen cities.

But few expected the authorities to quickly move in the other direction. Many families, fearing that hospitals and local governments were not prepared, responded to the sudden easing of coronavirus restrictions by Stay home and stock up on medication.

To counter the discomfort, China’s propaganda message has changed. Warnings about the dangers of infection have been replaced with assurances that infection is not a big deal. On Tuesday, the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, published an article with the headline: “I tested positive. I was better.”

Pei-Lin Wu in Taipei contributed to this report.


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