China defends its COVID response after WHO, Biden concerns

  • China says the outbreak is under control.
  • WHO says China is underreporting hospital admissions, deaths.
  • Official figures contradict overcrowded hospitals, crematoriums
  • Asian shares are buoyed by hopes that China’s reopening will spur growth.

BEIJING/SHANGHAI, Jan 5 (Reuters) – China on Thursday increased its number of deaths from the virus after U.S. President Joe Biden expressed concern and the World Health Organization (WHO) said Beijing had underreported virus deaths. Defended handling of the raging COVID-19 outbreak.

WHO Emergencies Director Mike Ryan said on Wednesday, in one of the UN health agency’s most significant remarks to date, that Chinese officials were underrepresenting the data on several fronts.

China ended its strict COVID controls last month after protests against them, abandoning a policy that had protected its 1.4 billion people from the virus for three years.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning told a regular press briefing in Beijing that China has transparently and promptly shared Covid data with the WHO.

Mao said China’s “epidemic situation is under control” and hoped the WHO would “maintain a scientific, objective and impartial position”.

“Facts have proven that China has always maintained close communication in accordance with the principles of legality, timeliness, openness and transparency, and has shared relevant information and data with the WHO in a timely manner,” Mao said.

China reported one new COVID death on the mainland on Wednesday, bringing its official death toll to 5,259, up from five a day earlier.

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China is publishing statistics representing hospital admissions, intensive care unit patients and deaths, Ryan said on Wednesday.

Hours later, US President Joe Biden also expressed concern about China’s handling of a COVID outbreak that is filling hospitals and overwhelming some funeral homes.

“They’re very sensitive,” Biden told reporters during a visit to Kentucky.

The French health minister expressed similar concerns while German health minister Karl Lauterbach expressed concern about a new COVID subtype linked to rising hospitalizations in the northeastern United States.

Overcrowded hospital

The United States is one of more than a dozen countries that have imposed restrictions on travelers from China.

China has criticized such border controls as unreasonable and unscientific, and the government said on Thursday that its border with the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region would reopen on Sunday for the first time in three years. will

Millions of people will travel within China for the Lunar New Year holiday later this month.

China’s government has downplayed the seriousness of the situation in recent days, and the state-run Global Times said in an article on Wednesday that COVID had reached its peak in several cities, including the capital Beijing, citing interviews with doctors.

But at one hospital in Shanghai’s suburban Chengpu district, bedridden patients lined the corridors of the emergency treatment area and main lobby on Thursday, many of them elderly and many breathing with oxygen tanks.

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A notice on a board advised that patients would have to wait an average of five hours to be seen.

Staff pronounced an elderly patient dead and attached a note to the body on the floor stating the cause of death was “respiratory failure”.

Police patrolled outside a nearby crematorium, where a stream of mourners laid wreaths and waited to collect the ashes of loved ones.

Data GAPS

With one of the lowest official COVID deaths in the world, China has routinely been accused of underreporting for political reasons.

In December last year, the WHO said it had received no data from China on new Covid hospital admissions since Beijing ended its zero-COVID policy.

In its latest weekly report, the WHO said 218,019 new weekly Covid cases were reported in China as of January 1, adding that the difference in figures may be due to authorities only counting the number of cases. Struggling for

Since the outbreak of the pandemic in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, methods of counting deaths from COVID have varied across countries.

Chinese health officials have said that only deaths due to pneumonia and respiratory failure are classified as deaths from the virus.

But disease experts outside China have said his approach would miss several other widely recognized types of deadly COVID complications, from blood clots to heart attacks, as well as sepsis and kidney failure. Until the breakdown.

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International health experts predict at least one million Covid-related deaths in China this year without urgent action. Airfinity, a UK-based health data firm, estimates that around 9,000 people in China are potentially dying from COVID every day.

Rising COVID infections are hurting demand in China’s $17 trillion economy, with a private sector survey on Thursday showing a decline in services activity in December.

But investors are optimistic that China’s lifting of COVID controls will eventually help revive growth, which has fallen to its slowest rate in nearly half a century. Those hopes were seen lifting Asian equity markets (.MIAPJ0000PUS) on Thursday.

“The re-opening of China has a big impact around the world,” said Juan Goh, investment strategist at DBS Bank in Singapore, adding that the move would boost tourism and consumption and improve supply chains. The crises seen last year will be reduced.

(This story has been edited to correct punctuation in the headline.)

Reporting by Liz Lee, Eduardo Baptista and Bernard Orr in Beijing, Brenda Goh in Shanghai, Tom Westbrook in Singapore, Steve Holland in Hebron, Kentucky; Written by John Geddy and Greg Torwood; Edited by Robert Brussell

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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