| 27 May 2024, Monday |

China ‘heavily underreporting’ COVID deaths, says WHO

The World Health Organisation believes that the numbers being shared are not showing the true impact of its current surge in cases, saying on Wednesday, that while China was now making more data on COVID-19 readily available, it is still heavily underreporting deaths caused by the disease.

“WHO still believes that deaths are heavily underreported from China,” its emergencies director Michael Ryan told reporters.

China has been reporting five or fewer deaths a day over the past month. The numbers being reported are inconsistent with the long queues seen at funeral homes. The country did not report COVID fatalities data on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Ryan blamed the parameter being used by China to define a COVID death for the lack of data. He also said that there is a “need for doctors in the public health system to be encouraged to report these cases, and not discouraged.”

“We still do not have adequate information to make a full comprehensive risk assessment.”

Experts have predicted at least one million COVID-related deaths this year in China, but the country has reported just over 5,000 since the pandemic began. This is a lot less than what other countries have reported as they removed restrictions.

He compared China’s stance with that of US and said that the latter had been a lot more transparent when it came to the new Omicron sub-variant XBB.1.5.

“There’s been radical transparency on behalf of the United States in terms of engaging with the WHO regarding the data and the impact of that data,” he said.
Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on Covid, said Washington had supplied virtually all the data available so far on XBB.1.5, the most transmissible form of Covid so far.

China dropped virtually every COVID-19 curb in the country a few weeks back, unleashing a wave of infections that have packed hospitals. It also lifted travel restrictions for overseas passengers, leading several countries to impose restrictions on those coming from China.

Beijing warned of counter-measures alleging “discrimination” and went on to impose visa curbs on South Korean and Japanese passengers.

Ryan said that in the absence of concrete data, he understands the concerns of some countries.

“In the absence of data, countries have made a decision to take a precautionary approach and (WHO has) said that that is understandable in the circumstances,” Ryan said.

  • Wions