China’s low covid death rate met with suspicion and ridicule

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China’s unexpectedly low coronavirus death rate has become the object of ridicule and anger for many, who say it hasn’t caught the real scale of grief and loss caused by rising infections within the country.

Health officials reported two covid-related deaths on Tuesday and the previous day, all in Beijing. Both issues were met with a wave of distrust on the microblog Weibo. “How is it that people only die in Beijing? What about the rest of the country?” Written by a user.

Multiple models of the current outbreak, which began before the unexpected easing of coronavirus restrictions in early December, predict that a wave of infections could kill more than 1 million people, aligning China with total covid deaths in the United States. Of particular concern is the low vaccination rate among older populations; Only 42 percent of those over the age of 80 have received the booster vaccine.

According to reports from the Financial Times and Associated Press, funeral homes in Beijing have been unusually busy in recent days, with some staff reporting that this was due to COVID-related deaths. A receptionist at a funeral parlor in Beijing’s Shunyi district told The Post that all eight cremators were working day and night, cadaver freezer boxes were full, and there was a 5-6 day waiting list.

After authorities stopped reporting asymptomatic cases last week, word-of-mouth communication has become the main way for many to follow up on the outbreak. Social media timelines are a steady stream of positive test results, reversing the nearly three years that most people in China have had no personal experience with the virus. Although authorities announced measures to increase emergency care capacity, hospitals were steadily filled.

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State Council, Chinese cabinet, In early December, it published updated guidance on the classification and reporting of covid-related deaths. Details of the rules have not been made public, but respected Chinese publication Caixin reported on Saturday that the new procedure is necessary. a decision made in the hospital and within 24 hours. Deaths that are not thought to be directly caused by covid are not counted.

It also raised the threshold for an individual to be considered infected with covid. Patients must have severe hypoxemia or arterial oxygen saturation levels below 93 percent; this both indicates that the person is severely oxygen-starved.

Wang Guiqiang, government consultant and director of the infectious diseases division at Peking University First Hospital, said the update reflects a “major change” in the nature of deaths from recent variants. Recent variants rarely result in respiratory failure, Wang said. “The main causes of death after infection with the Omicron strain are underlying diseases or old age,” he said at an official press conference on Tuesday.

Jin Dongyan, a virologist at the University of Hong Kong, said the procedure is in line with China’s previous criteria for calculating deaths, which have been generally conservative since the start of the pandemic.

Jin noted that during an epidemic in Shanghai earlier this year, some people were counted who died from underlying conditions worsened by covid, which could be a change “to highlight that many people will die from covid” and show why the lockdowns are necessary.

“Now they’re back to their old ways,” Jin said, adding that the lack of information from the government made it impossible to know the exact death toll.

The deaths of people infected when they die have raised concerns that the daily number is too low to be credible. The former football player, who was stated to have covid and an underlying illness in the local press, died on a day when the official number was zero. A medical student who fainted at work was cited by commentators as another case missing from the official figures.

China stops counting asymptomatic cases as infections rise

Yang Linyi, 24, believes that his grandfather, Yang Yongquan, should also be included in the count. Yang, 84, died of a heart attack in the western Chinese city of Chongqing on Sunday after nearly all of his main caregivers fell ill. In an interview, Yang had a high fever and vomiting that morning, leading the family to suspect the virus was partly responsible.

But because it was never tested, the case was automatically ruled out. “My grandfather was not officially a covid patient, but he had covid-related complications,” Yang said. “They stopped counting – too many people were infected and too many people had died.” A simple funeral was held at a local crematorium on Monday, and many attendees were still found to be covid-positive.

China’s procedures for determining whether a case is covid-related has been the subject of debate throughout the pandemic. In the early days of the outbreak in Wuhan, accusations of undercounting eventually led authorities to increase the death toll by 1,290 cases. Authorities denied the cover-up and said additional deaths were discovered from extensive checks of funeral and prison records.

Aside from the damage to families, the spike in preventable deaths would be an embarrassment to the Chinese Communist Party, which justified its harsh coronavirus lockdowns, citing the leadership’s great value in saving every life it can. Officials dismissed criticism of the rigid approach, highlighting how many people have died from the virus in more advanced economies in Europe and North America.

In November, the government still seemed determined to use strict containment measures, even as the more contagious omicron was making the measures increasingly ineffective. Anger at the seemingly arbitrary interventions in daily life until protests erupted and spread to more than a dozen cities across the country later that month.

But few expected authorities to move so quickly in the other direction. Fearing that hospitals and local authorities were unprepared, many families reacted to the sudden relaxation of coronavirus restrictions by staying at home and stocking up on medicine.

To combat the unrest, China’s propaganda messages took a U-turn. Warnings about the dangers of infection have been replaced by assurances that the infection is not serious. The People’s Daily, a spokesperson for the Chinese Communist Party, published an article on Tuesday with the headline: “The test was positive. I’m better now.

Pei-Lin Wu in Taipei contributed to this report.

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