The surge in cases in a country of 1.4 billion has also raised global concerns about the potential emergence of new variants.
Geneva: The World Health Organization officials, who have grappled with Beijing’s tight control of data access throughout the pandemic, has become increasingly vocal in their calls for reliable information as a major outbreak rips through China’s urban centers in the wake of an abrupt relaxation of disease control last month, reported CNN.
WHO has accused China of “under-representing” the severity of its Covid outbreak and criticized its “narrow” definition of what constitutes a Covid death, as top global health officials urge Beijing to share more data about the explosive spread.
“We continue to ask China for more rapid, regular, reliable data on hospitalizations and deaths, as well as more comprehensive, real-time viral sequencing,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a media briefing in Geneva Wednesday.
“WHO is concerned about the risk to life in China and has reiterated the importance of vaccination, including booster doses, to protect against hospitalization, severe disease, and death,” he said.
Speaking in more detail, WHO executive director for health emergencies Mike Ryan said the numbers released by China “under-represent the true impact of the disease” in terms of hospital and ICU admissions, as well as deaths, reported CNN.
He acknowledged that many countries have seen lags in reporting hospital data, but pointed to China’s “narrow” definition of a Covid death as part of the issue.
The country only lists those Covid patients who succumbed to respiratory failure as having died of Covid. In the two weeks prior to January 5, China reported fewer than 20 deaths from local Covid cases, according to figures released on the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.
However, on Thursday, China’s Foreign Ministry said the country has always shared epidemic information “in a timely, open and transparent manner” and insisted its Covid situation was “under control,” reported CNN.
China continues to battle the sudden surge in Covid cases following the relaxation of the zero-Covid policy of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Incidentally, the scale of the current outbreak of the Covid infections has made it difficult for the authorities to track the Covid infections, following the end of the mandatory mass testing as part of the easing of Covid restrictions.
Chinese hospitals and crematoriums are also struggling with an influx of patients and dead bodies with rural areas facing most of the brunt.
However, the Chinese authorities have been circulating a narrative that the peak of the current Covid wave had already passed in most of the cities including Beijing, in order to address the concerns of both domestic and international communities and to justify the CCP’s announcement regarding further relaxation of epidemic prevention and control measures from January 8, reported CNN.
With the annual holidays commencing on January 15, rural areas may witness a further surge of Covid infections due to the return of the workforce from cities to their respective villages.
The surge in cases in a country of 1.4 billion has also raised global concerns about the potential emergence of new variants – and of China’s levels of monitoring and sharing data, reported CNN.
A number of countries have implemented Covid testing requirements for travellers from China, citing a dearth of data on strains circulating there.
On Wednesday, the European Union “strongly encouraged” its member states to introduce a requirement for a negative Covid test for passengers traveling from China to the EU, according to a statement released by the Swedish presidency of the bloc.
China’s Foreign Ministry earlier this week decried the measures as unscientific and vowed to take “corresponding countermeasures for different situations in accordance with the principle of reciprocity.”