China reports first COVID-19 death in nearly 6 months

China reports first COVID-19 death in nearly 6 months

A resident is swabbed for the COVID test outside a district in Beijing, Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022. Credit: AP Photo/Ng Han Guan

China on Sunday reported its first new death from COVID-19 in nearly six months as strict new measures are put in place in Beijing and across the country to guard against new outbreaks.

The death of the 87-year-old Beijing man was the first reported by the State Health Commission since May 26, bringing the total death toll to 5,227. The first death was reported in Shanghai, which experienced a surge in the spring.

China on Sunday reported 24,215 new cases detected in the past 24 hours, the vast majority of them asymptomatic.

While the vaccination rate in China is more than 92% after receiving at least one dose, that number is considerably lower among the elderly – especially those over 80 – where it drops to just 65%. The committee did not provide information on the vaccination status of the last deceased.

This vulnerability is believed to be one reason why China has largely kept its borders closed and is sticking to its rigid “zero-COVID” policy, which seeks to wipe out infections through lockdowns, quarantines, case-tracing and mass testing, despite the impact on normality. life and the economy and the growing anger of the public towards the authorities.

China says its tough approach has resulted in far fewer cases and deaths than in other countries, such as the United States

With a population of 1.4 billion, China has officially reported just 286,197 cases since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019. That compares with 98.3 million cases and 1 million deaths in the United States, population 331, 9 million, since the virus first appeared there in 2020.

China reports first COVID-19 death in nearly 6 months

People wearing face masks walk along a pedestrian street in the Wangfujing shopping district in Beijing, Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022. Performances at one of Beijing’s oldest and best-known theaters have been suspended amid a new wave of shop and restaurant closures in response to a surge in COVID-19 cases in the Chinese capital. Credit: AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein

China’s figures, however, have come into question, based on the ruling Communist Party’s established reputation for manipulating statistics, a lack of external oversight and highly subjective criteria for determining cause of death.

Unlike other countries, the deaths of patients showing symptoms of COVID-19 were often attributed to underlying conditions such as diabetes or heart disease, masking the true number of deaths caused by the virus​​​​​​​​​​ and almost certainly leading to undercounting.

Critics singled out this year’s outbreak in Shanghai. The city of more than 25 million reported just two dozen deaths from the coronavirus despite an outbreak that spanned more than two months and infected hundreds of thousands of people in the world’s third-largest city.

China has also defied World Health Organization recommendations to adopt a more targeted prevention strategy. Beijing has resisted calls to fully cooperate with the investigation into the origin of the virus ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ and angrily rejected suggestions that it may have leaked from a laboratory in Wuhan, trying to shift such accusations to the US military.

In all cases, the party’s instinct to exert total control – even using routine testing information to restrict people’s movements – has prevailed, with only minor concessions due to criticism expressed on heavily censored online forums.

In response to the latest scandal, the central city of Zhengzhou said on Sunday it will no longer require a negative COVID-19 test from infants under the age of 3 and other “special groups” seeking health care.

The announcement by Zhengzhou city officials came after the death of another child was blamed on overzealous anti-virus measures. The four-month-old girl died after suffering from vomiting and diarrhea while in quarantine at a hotel in Zhengzhou.

China reports first COVID-19 death in nearly 6 months

People wearing face masks line up for a COVID-19 test at a coronavirus testing site in Beijing, Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022. Performances at one of Beijing’s oldest and best-known theaters have been suspended amid a new wave of shop and restaurant closures in response to a surge in COVID-19 cases in the Chinese capital. Credit: AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein

Reports said it took her father 11 hours to get help after paramedics refused to help, and she was finally sent to a hospital 100 kilometers away. Netizens expressed outrage at the “zero COVID” and demanded that Zhengzhou officials be punished for failing to help the public.

It follows the earlier outcry over the death of a three-year-old boy from carbon monoxide poisoning in the North West. His father blamed health workers in the city of Lanzhou, who he said tried to prevent him from taking his son to hospital.

Other cases include a pregnant woman who miscarried after being denied entry to a hospital in the northwestern city of Xi’an and forced to sit outside in the cold for hours.

Clashes between authorities and residents fed up with restrictions have been reported in numerous cities despite strict information controls. A new round of mass testing has been ordered in Huizhu district in the southern manufacturing hub of Guangzhou, which has seen such friction as migrants have been locked out of their homes, the local government said on its official microblog on Sunday.

Each such case brings a promise from the party – most recently last week – that people in quarantine or who cannot show negative test results would not be blocked from receiving emergency care.

Yet the party has often found itself unable to rein in draconian and often illegal measures taken by local officials who fear losing their jobs or facing prosecution if outbreaks occur in areas under their jurisdiction.

Nearly three years into the pandemic, while the rest of the world has largely opened up and the impact on the Chinese economy is growing, Beijing has largely kept its borders closed, reducing travel even within the country.

In the capital Beijing, residents were told not to travel between city districts, and large numbers of restaurants, shops, malls, office buildings and apartment blocks have been closed or isolated. Local and international urban schools in the city of 21 million have been brought online.

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