WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reiterated the importance of China’s deeper cooperation and transparency during talks with Ma Xiaowei, director of Beijing’s National Health Commission (NHC), and requested a more detailed breakdown of Covid data from China, including information on variants.
Covid:19: China reports nearly 60000 deaths since last month
Reliable and current data “allows for a better understanding of the epidemiological situation,” the WHO said, adding that detailed information needs to be continuously shared “with us and the public”.
Due to lack of transparency in data as well as allegations that Beijing was “heavily under-reporting” deaths, many nations, including India, introduced strict curbs on travelers coming from China.
Death toll doubles
On Saturday, China — for the first time since it rolled-back its strict covid-zero policy in December— released data regarding the intense Covid wave that is currently ripping through the nation.
The NHC informed that 59,938 Covid-related deaths were reported in the nation between December 8 and January 12.
“Of these fatalities, 5,503 were caused by respiratory failure due to Covid and the remainder resulted from a combination of Covid and other diseases,” said Jiao Yahui, head of the Bureau of Medical Administration under the NHC
The latest figures more than double China’s official Covid-19 death toll to 10,775.
China has counted only deaths from pneumonia or respiratory failure in its official toll, which excludes many fatalities that might be attributed to the virus in other countries. Many experts also pointed out that the figures only accounted for deaths in Chinese hospitals and the toll is likely much higher.
The NHC has given no indication when or whether it might release updated numbers.
Picture still not clear
Even with the latest revelations, many still feel that China is hiding the true impact of the Covid wave.
While international health experts have predicted at least 1 million Covid-related deaths this year, China has reported just over 10,000 deaths since the pandemic began — one of the lowest death rates in the world.
Authorities had been reporting five or fewer deaths a day over the past month – figures inconsistent with long queues seen at funeral homes and body bags seen leaving crowded hospitals.
UK-based firm Airfinity said China will see at least two infection peaks — one in January and the other in March. Using the trends in regional data, epidemiologists have forecast that the first peak is dissipating, with hospitalisations and deaths likely to decline over the next few weeks.
According to the company’s predictive health analytics, China likely saw at least 3.7 million cases a day and roughly 25,000 deaths daily during the peak of infection.
It added that China’s toll since December will rise to 584,000 by the end of January and further increase to 1.7 million by the end of April.
The firm has predicted that a second peak will occur in March, where daily cases are likely to reach 4.2 million a day. It is expected that rural areas will be more impacted in this later wave.
A sharp rise in travel ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday, when hundreds of millions return home from cities to small towns and rural areas, has fuelled worry that it will bring a surge in cases during a celebration that begins on January 21.
Despite worries about infections, air passenger volumes in China have recovered to 63% of 2019 levels since the annual travel season began on January 7.
The transport ministry has predicted passenger traffic volumes to jump 99.5% on the year during the festival migration, which runs until February 15, or a recovery to 70.3% of 2019 levels.
In the Chinese gambling hub of Macau, Friday’s 46,000 daily inbound travellers were the highest number since the pandemic began, the majority from the mainland, the city government said. It expects a Spring Festival boom in tourism.
(With inputs from agencies)
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