China Official Media Downplays Covid Outbreak before WHO Meeting
On Tuesday, China’s state media downplayed the severity of the COVID-19 wave that was sweeping through the country. Later in the day, Chinese scientists were set to brief the World Health Organization on how the virus had changed.
China’s sudden U-turn on COVID controls on December 7 and the accuracy of its case and death data are being looked at more closely at home and abroad. This has led some countries to put travel restrictions in place.
Protests over President Xi Jinping’s “zero COVID” approach led to the policy change. It was the biggest show of public disobedience in his ten years as president and came at the same time as China’s slowest growth in nearly half a century.
As the virus spreads without being stopped, funeral homes are getting more calls, and international health experts say that at least one million people will die this year in the country with the most people.
The number of COVID deaths in China went up from one on Sunday to three on Monday. Officially, 5,253 people have died since the pandemic started.
People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, wrote on Tuesday that several Chinese experts said most people who got sick from the virus didn’t get too sick.
Vice President of Beijing Chaoyang Hospital Tong Zhaohui told the newspaper that 3% to 4% of the infected people who are currently being treated in designated hospitals in Beijing have severe or critical illnesses.
Kang Yan, the head of West China Tianfu Hospital of Sichuan University, said that 46 critically ill patients were taken to intensive care units in the last three weeks. This is about 1% of all infections with symptoms.
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Health officials in the southwestern province of Sichuan say that more than 80% of the people who live there are infected.
Friday, the WHO asked China’s health officials to share specific and up-to-date information about the COVID situation more often.
At a meeting of a technical advisory group on Tuesday, Chinese scientists have been asked to give detailed information about virus sequencing. It has also asked China to share information about people who go to hospitals, die, and get vaccinated.
The Financial Times reported on Tuesday that the European Union has given China free COVID vaccines to help stop the outbreak.
On Monday, the Swedish EU presidency said that EU health officials will meet on Wednesday to talk about how to respond to the outbreak in China in a coordinated way.
The US, France, Australia, India, and other countries will require all travelers from China to get a COVID test. Meanwhile, Belgium said it will test the wastewater from planes coming from China for new COVID strains.
China has responded to criticisms of its COVID data by saying that any new mutations may make the virus easier to spread but less dangerous.
“Some people in Europe and the United States think that whether China opens or doesn’t open is the same wrong thing to do from a political point of view,” state-run CCTV said in a commentary on Monday night.