China shifts how it counts Covid deaths as crematoriums fill up


Beijing
CNN

For many of the epidemics, images of flooded hospitals and overcrowded funeral homes from the United States have been shown prominently on Chinese state television, where deaths have exceeded in the millions of Americans from Covid is considered a failure of Western democracy.

Now, as the first wave has broken through in China, state media is ignoring the scenes of overcrowded hospital beds and home-grown crematoriums, insisting According to the government, very few people are suffering from Covid-19.

For nearly three years, China’s no-Covid policy has shielded its population from the kind of mass infection that Western nations face – a contrast that the Communist Party has driven home to demonstrate the power of the administration.

But when China abruptly abandoned that strategy, with little warning or preparation, the prospect of mass casualties — estimated by some studies to be as high as one million — has become a thorny issue for anyone. government claims its right to “save lives.”

Officially, China has reported just eight Covid-19 deaths this month – a relatively low figure given the virus’s rapid spread and low vaccination rates among vulnerable elderly people.

The official count has been met with disbelief and ridicule online, where there are posts mourning loved ones dying of Covid. Caixin, a Chinese financial magazine known for its investigative pieces, reported on the death of two state media journalists infected with Covid, days after official pay was suspended.

College students line up to enter a crematorium in Beijing on December 22.

Some social media posts show the frustration many faced trying to get a hearse and the difficulty of securing a place for cremation at the funeral home.

When CNN visited a large crematorium in Beijing on Tuesday, the parking lot was packed, with a long line of cars lining the crematorium waiting to get in. .

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Grieving family members wait in line to take photos of the deceased. Some told CNN they had been waiting more than a day to hide their loved ones, who died after contracting Covid. One man told CNN that the hospital where his friend died was too full to hold the body, because so many people had died there. His friend’s body was left on the hospital floor, he said.

At nearby stores selling funeral supplies, a florist said they were running out of stock, and a store owner said business had not been particularly busy.

In many parts of the country, crematoria are struggling to keep up with the influx of bodies, according to social media records.

Outside a Beijing hospital designated for Covid patients, a stream of elderly patients in wheelchairs entered the building as CNN visited on Sunday. A man outside the hospital said the space was full and he had to go the night before to register his elderly family member for a bed.

A hazmat-suited worker, sorting through yellow bags of medical waste, said he worked extra hours in the evening to manage the death of Covid patients. “There are a lot of old guys,” he said.

Covid patients are dying every day, the worker said.

china covid cases wang pkg

Fewer Covid deaths in China than non-Covid outbreaks. CNN is seeing a different story

Amid growing disbelief that Covid-19 deaths are undercounting, the Chinese government has defended the accuracy of its official count by revealing that it has revised its method of counting deaths caused by the virus.

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According to the new guidelines from the National Health Commission, only those who died due to pneumonia and lack of breathing after the infection are considered to be Covid patients, said Wang Guiqiang, a doctor serious infectious disease, said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Those who are said to have died from another disease or underlying condition, such as a heart attack, are not considered to be infected with the virus, even if they were infected with Covid at the time, and he said.

Commenting on China’s criteria for counting Covid deaths on Wednesday, the World Health Organization’s emergency chief Michael Ryan said it was “very narrow.”

“People who get Covid die from multiple (organ) system failure, because of the severity of the disease,” Ryan said. “So reducing the risk of death from Covid to a person who has a positive Covid test and is short of breath is seriously underestimating the true risk of death from Covid.”

According to Wang, the Chinese doctor, the change in definition is due to the simple nature of Omicron, which is different from the Wuhan valley at the beginning of the epidemic, when most of the patients died. from pneumonia and shortness of breath.

But Jin Dongyan, a gynecologist at the University of Hong Kong, said that the strict criteria used by the Chinese authorities to calculate the number of Covid-19 cases are more or less strict than ever.

The definition was slightly expanded in April this year to include some of the Covid patients who died in underground conditions during the Shanghai lockdown to enforce the draconian restrictions, Jin said.

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In Shanghai’s outbreak from March to May, city officials reported 588 Covid deaths out of some 600,000 deaths. But when the city’s lockdown was lifted, the country remained disease-free for the next six months, despite the number of deaths reaching hundreds of thousands. Then, in late November, Beijing announced that three octogenarians had died of underlying conditions related to Covid, as the city increased its own Covid restrictions in the outbreak of disease.

According to Jin, these inconsistencies show that China’s method of counting Covid deaths is “very subjective.” “The mortality data has been wrong from the beginning,” he said.

Counting deaths from Covid to infections with Covid has been a controversial topic around the world since the start of the pandemic, said Ben Cowling, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Hong Kong. Cong.

Most countries, including the United States, have decided that it is too difficult to evaluate all the diseases to determine if Covid is the cause, and to count the diseases with Covid in their deaths, which said Cowling.

But he pointed out that the controversy over the number of Covid deaths is driven by a bigger issue in China – namely, that few PCR tests are being carried out after the government has scaled back mass testing.

“We know that there have been many, many Covid-19 infections. And it’s not called the Chinese method or the American method, because the tests are not being done,” he said.

“A significant reduction in testing will have a greater impact on the death toll that we will see in the next one to two months.”

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