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WHO appeals China to release actual figure for Covid-19 deaths

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Patients lie on beds in a hallway in the emergency department of Zhongshan Hospital, amid the coronavirus disease outbreak in Shanghai, China January 3, 2023 (Photo/Reuters)

By Tenzin Nyidon

DHARAMSHALA, Jan. 21: The World Health Organisation has appealed China to release more information after Beijing reported only 60,000 deaths in people who contracted the Covid-19 virus since early December. The numbers, experts say, is highly sceptical and most likely a massive undercount in view of the mass infection and poor immunity among the Chinese masses.

According to the Chinese state media Xinhua, a total of 59,938 Covid deaths have occurred from December 8, 2022, to January 12, 2023, in medical institutions nationwide. Jiao Yahui, head of the Bureau of Medical Administration under the National Health Commission of China announced 5,503 deaths due to respiratory failure caused by Covid-19, and 54,435 deaths in people with co-morbidities such as cancer, heart disease and other ailments.

China has stopped sharing its report on Covid-19 deaths and infections after the Communist Party abruptly lifted its “zero-covid policy” on December 7, ending mass testing, harsh lockdowns and lengthy quarantine despite a surge in infection, leaving WHO and other governmental organisations appealing for more information. Meanwhile, international health experts have predicted at least one million deaths related to Covid-19.

Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on Covid-19, said, “it’s really sad to see the number of hospital-related deaths of 60,000 in the last month, but that should be considered the minimum.” She noted that the data does not appear to include deaths outside the hospital and that the secrecy around the latest outbreak has heightened concerns among global health experts and analysts that a new variant could be spreading undetected.  

Experts citing satellite imagery of crematoriums suggested that China has suffered more deaths, thus pointing to a number far greater than that is officially claimed by Beijing. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus repeatedly urged the Chinese government to report the number of data on hospital admissions, the number of patients in intensive care and disease severity. Tedros said the detailed information will “allow a better understanding of the epidemiological situation.”

In response Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said that Beijing will continue to “share information with WHO and the rest of the international community in a timely, open and transparent manner, in accordance with the law.” 

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