WHO says Chinese data underrepresents Covid outbreak and deaths

GENEVA: China’s Covid-19 data does not paint an accurate picture of the situation there and underrepresents the number of hospitalizations and deaths from the disease, a senior World Organization official said on Wednesday. of health.
The UN agency was preparing to meet Chinese scientists again on Thursday as part of a wider briefing among member states on the global Covid-19 situation as concerns grow over the rapid spread of the virus in the world’s second largest economy.
On Tuesday, top Chinese scientists presented data to a WHO technical advisory group showing that no new coronavirus variants had been found in the country of 1.4 billion people.
That could ease some concerns about the outbreak since Beijing abruptly reversed its “zero Covid” policy last month.
But WHO officials’ comments on Wednesday were the clearest criticism yet of China’s recent handling of the pandemic. It underscored concerns about the accuracy and availability of data from Beijing, hampering the fight against the disease that has killed more than 6.7 million people and upended global economies.
“We believe the current figures released by China underrepresent the true impact of the disease in terms of hospital admissions, in terms of ICU admissions, particularly in terms of deaths,” Mike said. Ryan, WHO emergency director.
He told a briefing in Geneva that the WHO believes the Chinese government’s definition of death is “too narrow”.
“We still don’t have full data,” Ryan said.
Late last month, the world’s most populous country tightened its definition to classify deaths as Covid-related, counting only those involving pneumonia or respiratory failure caused by Covid, raising eyebrows among global health experts .
WHO says deaths should be attributed to Covid-19 if they result from “clinically compatible disease” in a patient with probable or confirmed infection, and no other unrelated cause of death – such as trauma – is involved.
China has reported five or fewer deaths a day since the policy reversal. But many Chinese funeral homes and hospitals say they are overwhelmed, and international health experts are predicting at least 1 million Covid-related deaths in China this year without urgent action.
Abdi Rahman Mahamud, director of the WHO’s alert and response coordination department, has warned there could be another wave of infections as families gather for the Lunar New Year holiday in China in a few weeks – one of his busiest travel periods.
He said vaccination rates needed to increase and people should wear masks to protect themselves from infection.
But the WHO said there was “no inevitability” in terms of predictions of large numbers of deaths.
“It really depends on the measures that are in place,” said the WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead Maria Van Kerkhove.
She said the WHO was working with China to improve access to life-saving tools and address health workforce issues in hard-hit areas.
Earlier in the briefing, the WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reiterated that the agency is “concerned” about the surge in Covid-19 infections in China and again urged Beijing to provide rapid and regular data on hospitalizations and deaths there as well as viral sequencing in real time.
“WHO is concerned about the risk to life in China and has reiterated the importance of vaccination, including booster doses to protect against hospitalization, serious illness and death,” Tedros said.
With China’s virus circulation so high and full data unavailable, he said it was understandable that some countries were taking measures like testing travelers arriving from the country to protect their own citizens.

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