Chinese stats ‘underrepresent’ true impact of Covid outbreak: WHO

GENEVA: The World Health Organization criticized China’s “very narrow” definition of Covid deaths on Wednesday, warning that official statistics did not show the true impact of the outbreak.
There are growing concerns about the sharp rise in Covid infections in China since Beijing abruptly lifted years of strict restrictions last month, with hospitals and crematoriums quickly overwhelmed.
“We still don’t have complete data,” WHO emergency director Michael Ryan told reporters.
“We believe that the current figures published in China under-represent the true impact of the disease in terms of hospital admissions, in terms of intensive care unit admissions, and in particular in terms of deaths.”
China has recorded just 22 Covid deaths since December and has dramatically reduced the criteria for classifying those fatalities – meaning Beijing’s own statistics on the unprecedented surge are now widely seen as not reflecting reality.
Ryan pointed out that the definition used by Beijing “requires respiratory failure” associated with Covid infection for a death to be recorded as a Covid death.
“It’s a very narrow definition,” he said.
EU countries also echoed the WHO’s concern that Chinese data on Covid infections was insufficient.
As countries grapple with the best response to surging cases, a crisis meeting of European Union experts said on Wednesday that EU countries were “strongly encouraged” to require Covid tests for people. passengers from China.
The meeting was organized to coordinate a joint EU response to the sudden influx of visitors as Beijing lifts its “zero-Covid” policy which had largely closed the country to international travel.
Experts have also recommended that passengers to and from China wear face masks, that EU countries carry out random testing on arrival and test sewage on flights from China, according to a statement. published by the Swedish EU Presidency.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus previously told reporters that the organization’s officials had held high-level talks in recent weeks with their counterparts in China.
“We continue to ask China for faster, more regular and reliable data on hospitalizations and deaths, as well as more comprehensive real-time viral sequencing,” Tedros said.
He reiterated that the UN health agency understood why some countries were introducing new Covid restrictions on visitors from China.
“With China’s circulation so high and comprehensive data not being available … it’s understandable that some countries are taking action that they believe will protect their own citizens,” he said.
The United States – which will require most travelers from China to test negative from Thursday – hailed the WHO’s role and said Washington’s own precautions were due to Beijing’s lack of transparency.
UN body ‘best placed to make assessment’ because of contacts with Chinese officials, State Department spokesperson net price said.
Outside of China, many experts have their attention on the US and Omicron XBB.1.5 subvariant, which has been detected in 29 countries so far.
Married Van Kerkhovethe WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead, said it was “the most transmissible sub-variant that has been detected to date”.
However, there is no indication so far that XBB.1.5 – which has spread rapidly in the northeastern United States – causes more severe disease than other types of Covid.
The upsurge in XBB.1.5 cases, Van Kerkhove said, underscored the importance of “continuing surveillance for Covid-19 around the world.”
“There were more than 13 million Covid cases reported to the WHO last month alone, she said, “and we know that’s an underestimate because surveillance has gone down.”
There were also 15% more Covid deaths globally last month than the month before, she said.
“Every week, about 10,000 people die from Covid-19, as far as we know,” Tedros said. “The true toll is probably much higher.”

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