Updated definition is narrow since it counts only those deaths caused by COVID-induced pneumonia or respiratory failures
China’s “very narrow” definition of COVID-19 fatalities has drawn criticism from the World Health Organization (WHO). The official data from the country distorts the actual picture of the coronavirus pandemic surge in the country, the global health body said December 5, 2022.
Since Beijing abruptly ended the three-year-old ‘Zero COVID policy’ last month, there has been an alarming spike in COVID infections, overburdening hospitals and crematoriums.
Read more: 2020-2022: A chronicle of the pandemic
Protests that broke out in more than 20 Chinese cities last month following an apartment building fire in November claimed 10 lives, forced the country to revise the policy.
It was alleged that the victims had been confined inside their apartments as part of the COVID restrictions. However, authorities have dismissed it.
Since December, China has only reported 22 COVID deaths. The country has altered the criteria for identifying such fatalities.
The updated definition is narrow since it counts only those deaths caused by COVID-induced pneumonia or respiratory failures, implying distortion of Beijing’s own data.
Based on the latest genome sequencing, Omicron continues to be the predominant coronavirus variant in the country.
“We still do not have complete data,” WHO’s emergencies director, Michael Ryan, told in a press briefing.
Read more: Can boosters stave off new variants in India as cases rise?
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the global health body, had previously stated that WHO had recently convened high-level discussions with Chinese counterparts.
“We continue to ask China for more rapid, regular, reliable data on hospitalisations and deaths, as well as more comprehensive, real-time viral sequencing,” Ghebreyesus said.
WHO is concerned about the risk to life in the world’s most populous country and reiterated the importance of stepping up vaccination coverage, including booster doses, particularly for vulnerable groups such as older persons, he added.
The WHO has also termed a new supercharged strain of the COVID-19 variant, nicknamed the ‘Kraken’ as “the most transmissible subvariant” that has been registered yet.
XBB.1.5, an omicron offspring, emerged in New York in mid-December and is rapidly becoming dominant. The latest variant is considered to be the reason for approximately 70 per cent of new infections in the most affected areas.
The variant’s rapid spread across the UK suggests its significant growth advantage over other strains. However, XBB.1.5 seems to be mild in terms of fatality rate.
Although it has already been detected in Britain and other countries worldwide, concern about XBB.1.5 is mostly centred on how it is now spreading in the US.
WHO is concerned about the variant’s growth advantage “particularly in the Northeast part of the US, where XBB.1.5 has rapidly replaced other circulating variants,” WHO’s technical lead for COVID-19, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, said in a press conference.
Additionally, XBB.1.5 has been reported in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Ireland, Australia, Singapore and India.
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.