China’s COVID-19 data is not giving an accurate picture of the situation there and under-represented the number of hospitalisations and deaths from the disease, a senior official at the Globe Health Organization (WHO) said.
The WHO believes China’s definition for COVID-related death is “too narrow”, which may result in under-reporting of cases
China narrowed its definition for classifying COVID-related deaths, counting only those involving COVID-caused pneumonia or respiratory failure
The WHO comments were the clearest criticism yet associated with China’s recent handling of the pandemic
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 about the rapid spread of the virus in the world’s second-largest economy.
On Tuesday, China’s top scientists presented data to a WHO technical advisory group showing no new coronavirus variant had been found in the country of 1. 4 billion people.
That might ease some concerns about the particular outbreak since Beijing abruptly reversed its “zero COVID” policy last month.
But comments by WHO officials on Wednesday were the clearest criticism yet of China’s recent handling of the pandemic.
It underscored worries about the accuracy plus availability of Beijing’s data, hampering the fight against the disease that has killed more than 6. 7 million people globally and roiled economies.
“We believe the current numbers being published from China under-represent the true impact of the disease in terms of hospital admissions, in terms of ICU admissions, particularly in terms of death, ” said Mike Ryan, WHO’s emergencies director.
He told a briefing in Geneva that the WHO believes the particular Chinese government’s definition for death is “too narrow”.
“We still do not have complete data, ” said Dr Ryan.
Late last month, the world’s most populous country narrowed its definition with regard to classifying deaths as COVID-related, counting only those including COVID-caused pneumonia or respiratory system failure, raising eyebrows among world health experts.
The WHO says deaths should be attributed to COVID-19 if they result from a “clinically compatible illness” in a patient with a probable or confirmed infection, and no other unrelated cause of death — like trauma — is involved.
Lunar New Year COVID wave likely
China has reported five or fewer deaths a day since the policy U-turn.
But many Chinese funeral homes plus hospitals say they are overwhelmed, and international health experts predict at least 1 million COVID-related fatalities in China this year without urgent action.
Abdi Rahman Mahamud, director of the WHO’s alert and response coordination department, cautioned there may be another wave associated with infections as families gather for China’s Lunar New Year holiday in the few weeks — one of its busiest travel periods.
He said vaccination rates needed to increase and people should wear masks to protect themselves from infection.
But the particular WHO said there is “no inevitability” when it comes to predictions of large numbers of deaths.
“It really does depend on the measures that are in place, ” said the Whoms COVID-19 technical lead Maria van Kerkhove.
She said the WHO was working with The far east to improve access to life-saving tools and cope along with health workforce issues inside badly-hit areas.
Earlier in the briefing, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reiterated that this agency was “concerned” regarding the surge in COVID-19 infections in China and again urged Beijing to deliver rapid and regular information on hospitalisation and death there as well as real-time viral sequencing.
“WHO will be concerned about the risk to life in China and has reiterated the importance of vaccination, including booster doses to protect towards hospitalisation, severe disease plus death, ” Dr Tedros said.
With viral circulation within China so high and comprehensive data not forthcoming, he said it has been understandable that some countries were taking steps like testing travellers arriving through the country to safeguard their own citizens.