A senior Chinese health official says COVID deaths are rising in the “normal” range.

A senior health official in China said fatalities from the latest wave of COVID-19 cases were “on the rise” but within the normal range for fatalities.

In an interview with state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV), Jiao Yahui, an official at the National Health Commission, said, “We have a huge base, so what people hear is that severe cases, critical cases or the victims are increasing.

“Compared to the rest of the world, the spikes in infection we face across the country are not unusual,” he added.

The contrast between statements by Chinese officials assessing the COVID situation and social media footage of crowded hospital corridors and long lines at clinics prompted leading scientists to advise the World Health Organization to call on Tuesday for a “more realistic picture on what China is experiencing after the “zero-COVID” pivot.

Normal mortality is the number of deaths that authorities expect for a specific period based on long-term population data. Excess mortality reveals the difference between the number of deaths caused during the current wave of COVID and the number of deaths expected if the pandemic had not occurred. Excess death numbers have been used around the world during the pandemic to give a better idea of ​​how many people have died from COVID.

Tong Zhaohui, vice president of Beijing’s Chaoyang Hospital, agreed that while the actual number of deaths is growing, the victims remain a small percentage of China’s population.

“Think how many people around you were infected but how many developed critical cases or pneumonia? I think everyone has the idea,” she told CCTV.

China began relaxing its strict zero-COVID policy in early December. Since then, Tong has overseen the treatment of critically ill COVID patients at two major hospitals in Beijing.

Tong said, “I roughly counted, both severe and critical cases (of COVID) in the two designated hospitals accounted for 3% to 4% of infected patients.” She added that the actual number cannot be determined because PCR testing is no longer mandatory.

Beijing reported three new COVID deaths on Monday, bringing the official death toll to 5,253 since the pandemic began in January 2020. China’s population was more than 1.4 billion people in 2021.

CCTV coverage acknowledged that the number of outpatients with fever in some hospitals had increased tenfold, and one doctor saw up to 150 patients in one night. A patient with fever cannot be considered a COVID patient.

Patients lie on beds in a waiting area in the emergency room of Zhongshan hospital during the COVID-19 outbreak in Shanghai, Jan. 3, 2023.

Photos and videos of hospitals filled with patients awaiting treatment are circulating on social media from facilities across the country. Reuters visited a hospital in Shanghai and reported finding crowded corridors and emergency rooms. Chinese censors are moving quickly to prevent photos and videos from circulating within the country, but many are bypassing the country’s Great Firewall for internet and publication photos and video they were said to have come from hospitals in central and southern China’s Hunan province and other cities.

Although VOA Mandarin was unable to independently verify the videos circulating on Twitter that purportedly show hospitals in Hunan, a staff member who answered the phone at Changsha No. 1 People’s Hospital in Changsha, the capital of the province, said the hospital has no more free beds and new patients are being asked to go to other hospitals. According to Baike, the Chinese version of Wikipedia, the hospital has a total capacity of 1,593 beds. The staffer said while many doctors have tested positive, they are still working.

Videos on social media from various cities show long lines waiting to be allowed outside the crematoria.

In an interview with Da Jiangdong Studio, an affiliate of the state-owned newspaper People’s newspaperChen Erzhen, vice president of Shanghai’s Ruijin Hospital and a member of the city’s COVID expert advisory group, estimated that 70 percent of Shanghai’s population of 25 million may have been infected. The interview was conducted on December 31 and published on Tuesday.

“Now the epidemic spread in Shanghai is very large and may have reached 70 percent of the population, which is 20 to 30 times higher than (in April and May),” he told Da Jiangdong Studio. Shanghai suffered a two-month lockdown in April and May, during which more than 600,000 residents were infected and already weakened global supply chains were further strained.

China could see up to 25,000 deaths a day from COVID in late January, according to a Bloomberg report.

That daily total is “roughly equivalent to China’s normal daily death toll from all other causes,” according to the British Medical Journal referring to research published Dec. 20 by Airfinity, a London-based research firm. which focuses on predictive health analytics.

Mortality from contagious respiratory disease will likely peak around Jan. 23, the second day of the annual New Year’s holiday, according to Airfinity.

China said it sent genome sequence data from recently sampled COVID-19 cases to GISAID, an international database hosted by Germany, ahead of a meeting with WHO officials on Tuesday.

Ahead of the meeting, Reuters reported that two anonymous WHO-affiliated scientists had asked Beijing for a “more realistic picture” of COVID in China.

Some pundits doubted Beijing would be forthright in its statistical offerings.

Alfred Wu, an associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, told Reuters: “I don’t think China will be very sincere in disclosing information.”

“They’d rather just keep it to themselves, or they’d say nothing happened, nothing is new,” Wu said. “My feeling is that we could assume that there is nothing new … but the problem is that China’s transparency problem is always there.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *