China has finally disclosed 60,000 Covid deaths in a month but WHO wants more data

DailyBiteJan 16, 2023 | 11:25

China has finally disclosed 60,000 Covid deaths in a month but WHO wants more data

China has been accused of underreporting the number of Covid fatalities since the abandonment of its zero-Covid policy. (Reuters Photo)

After China's health authorities reported that almost 60,000 Covid-related deaths happened in just over a month, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has asked the country to share more data.

China on Saturday reported that nearly 60,000 people who had Covid since early December have died in the country. It was the first major death toll released by the Chinese government since it eased its virus restrictions in early December.


China has been accused of underreporting the number of Covid fatalities since the abandonment of its zero-Covid policy.


The numbers: The death toll included 5,503 deaths due to respiratory failure caused by Covid and 54,435 fatalities from other ailments combined with coronavirus since December 8, the National Health Commission of China said. It said those "deaths related to Covid" occurred in hospitals, which means anyone who died at home would not be included in the numbers, reported AP.

Elderly at risk: Chinese health officials said the average age of those who had died was 80.3 years, with more than 90 per cent of fatalities above 65 years old. Millions of the elderly in China are not fully vaccinated and the Chinese government has been criticised for not prioritising immunisation campaigns among the country's most vulnerable citizens, reported AFP.

WHO asks for more data: The WHO has urged China to share more detailed information on its coronavirus situation after the country released the death toll numbers. WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke with Chinese minister Ma Xiaowei, director of China's National Health Commission, about the Covid situation in the country.

  • WHO said it is analysing this information, which covers early December 2022 to 12 January 2023, and allows for a better understanding of the epidemiological situation and the impact of this wave in China. WHO requested that this type of detailed information continue to be shared with us and the public.
  • "While the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention has earlier reported that Omicron sublineages BA.5.2 and BF.7 are currently circulating, WHO continues to ask that further sequences be shared with open access databases such as GISAID for deeper phylogenetic analyses, and for continued collaboration with technical groups working on virus evolution, clinical care, and beyond," the WHO said in a statement.


When China stopped releasing Covid data: China stopped reporting data on Covid deaths and infections after abruptly lifting anti-virus controls in early December despite a surge in infections that began in October and has filled hospitals with patients, reported AP.

Hospitals in Beijing and other Chinese cities have been overwhelmed with patients, and funeral homes and crematoriums have struggled to handle the dead.


What led to the surge: The Covid spike happened after the Chinese government's decision to lift the strict restrictions, including quarantine and isolation protocols. The zero-Covid policy had almost insulated China's 1.4 billion people but it had also led to huge protests in the country.

  • The protests started in late November in Chinese cities after the containment measures were blamed for deaths after a fire in the Xinjiang region.
  • China's vaccination rate is above 90%, but the rate for adults who have received booster shots is just 57.9%. And only 42.3% of people aged 80 and above have received booster shots.  


More than 900 million infected: According to the latest study by Peking University, some 900 million people in China have been infected with the virus as of January 11, 2023. The report estimates that 64 per cent of the country's population is infected with the virus, the BBC reported. A top Chinese epidemiologist has also warned that cases will surge in rural China during the Chinese New Year and Spring Festival starting from January 22.

Last updated: January 16, 2023 | 13:29
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