Shanghai reports three deaths, all elderly, unvaccinated


Patients who have recovered from COVID-19 leave a converted makeshift hospital at the Shanghai Convention & Exhibition Center of International Sourcing in Shanghai, east China, April 9, 2022. Photo: Xinhua

Three COVID-19 patient deaths reported in Shanghai, all involving unvaccinated elderly, have raised alarms for China not to let its guard down in the fight against Omicron, and underscores the urgency to vaccinate the elderly, epidemiologists have said.

They said the dynamic zero-COVID strategy is what has kept China’s death rate at the lowest in the world, and the three tragic deaths in Shanghai show why such policies should be maintained rather than relaxed at the current juncture. .

Shanghai reported the deaths of three COVID-19 patients on Monday. The deceased, aged 89, 91 and 91 respectively, were unvaccinated and the direct cause of death in each case was underlying illnesses, said Wu Qianyu, a Shanghai health authority official, during a Monday press briefing.

The city, with a total population of 25 million, has seen more than 300,000 infections since March, with just three deaths.

The three deaths serve as a wake-up call for the country not to lower its guard against Omicron, as it is extremely dangerous for vulnerable unvaccinated groups with underlying diseases, said a senior expert from the China Center for Disease Control and Disease Prevention (CDC). told the Global Times on condition of anonymity, noting that this is a fundamental reason why many epidemiologists agree not to relax the current anti-virus strategy.

He said the deaths underscore the urgency of vaccinating the elderly. “Currently, minors and the elderly are the main groups that the government has to deal with.”

On Friday, Shanghai government officials revealed that only 62% of the city’s 3.6 million elderly people – aged 60 and over – are fully vaccinated. The rate of those who receive booster injections is only 38%.

China has reported fewer than 5,000 deaths since the COVID-19 outbreak began two years ago. Most deaths occurred in early 2020.

During the current outbreak, the northeastern province of Jilin reported the death of two elderly COVID-19 patients, but the virus was not the direct cause of their death.

By comparison, since the initial outbreak, the death toll in the US has topped 986,000 and the number in the UK topped 170,000. Worldwide, the coronavirus has killed at least 6.2 million people.

China’s top respiratory expert Zhong Nanshan told a conference in November 2021 that China’s death rate from COVID-19 was 0.4 per 100,000, the lowest in the world, and 1/606 of that. the United States.

Wu Zunyou, chief medical expert at China CDC, told a conference on April 6 that China had been able to keep death rates low through its efforts to detect and curb outbreaks at an early stage, to high vaccination rates and a treat-all-infected approach. patients, which he says helped keep mild cases from turning into serious ones.

Ma Xiaowei, director of the National Health Commission, wrote in an article in the Party-linked Study Times on Monday that local officials across the country should resolutely oppose false claims such as “coexisting with COVID or “the virus becomes the flu,” and adhere to the country’s aggressive zero-case policy to achieve results at lower cost.

Recently, some Western media, including the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal, jumped on China’s low death rate, casting doubts on whether China was underreporting its deaths. They have made such speculation mainly on the basis that China has adopted different standards for what counts as a death from COVID-19.

In principle, China counts those who died before reaching the COVID-19 recovery level as COVID-19 deaths, a source close to the authority told the Global Times, speaking on condition of anonymity. .

The person explained that only confirmed COVID-19 cases can be counted as COVID-19 deaths, not asymptomatic patients. China counts confirmed COVID-19 patients and silent carriers separately.

Those who contracted the virus, but died after reaching the COVID-19 cure criterion, are also excluded from the COVID-19 death count.

China’s categorization of counting COVID-19 deaths is based on science and a responsible and cautious attitude, as any distortion of COVID-19 data violates the rules of the contagious disease and then gives the public unnecessary panic. and misguides health authorities’ judgment on the outbreak, Wang Guangfa, a respiratory expert at Peking University First Hospital, told the Global Times.

Although countries have different standards for counting COVID-19 deaths, there is no perfect way to categorize this, Wang said, attributing the reason to difficulties in identifying the direct cause of any death. .

An article published by The Lancet in March said the number of people who have died from the pandemic could be three times higher than the official death toll, for reasons including lack of access to COVID-19 testing, uneven records of causes of death. , And so on.

Wang said that since mortality statistics are fundamental for public health decision-making, China takes a serious and scientific attitude to its COVID-19 figures. He said the hype from foreign media only throws mud on China and will not change the fact that China has had the lowest death rate in the world.

“Even the hype about the different standard is not enough to explain the huge mortality rate discrepancies between China and some Western countries,” he noted.


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