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China 'Underrepresents' Severity of COVID Outbreak, Says WHO | coronavirus pandemic news

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China’s official data is underrepresenting the true impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the country, a senior World Health Organization (WHO) official has said, criticizing its “too narrow” definition of COVID deaths.

“We believe that the current numbers published in China understate the true impact of the disease in terms of hospital admissions, in terms of ICU admissions, particularly in terms of death,” Mike Ryan, director of emergencies at the WHO, told reporters on Wednesday. -market.

The comments came as more countries are imposing travel restrictions on visitors to China following a sharp rise in COVID infections in the country. Hospitals and crematoria have been overwhelmed since Beijing abruptly lifted more than three years of strict restrictions last month.

A senior doctor at one of Shanghai’s top hospitals said that 70% of the megacity’s population may have been infected with COVID-19, state media reported on Tuesday.

International health experts have predicted at least one million COVID-related deaths in China this year if no urgent action is taken.

However, China has only recorded 22 deaths from COVID since December and has drastically lowered the criteria for classifying these fatalities. It only counts cases involving COVID-caused pneumonia or respiratory failure – meaning that Beijing’s own statistics on the unprecedented wave are now widely seen as not reflecting reality.

Ryan, the WHO official, pointed out that the definition Beijing is using “requires respiratory failure” associated with a COVID infection for a death to be recorded as a COVID death.

“That’s a very narrow definition,” he said.

Ryan noted that over the past three years, China has had some of the strictest rules in the world regarding COVID-19. “The reality for China is that many countries [now feel] they don’t have enough information to base their risk assessment on,” he said.

“We still don’t have complete data,” he added.

The UN agency will meet Chinese scientists again on Thursday as part of a broader briefing among member states on the global COVID-19 situation.

Meanwhile, at a briefing on Wednesday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reiterated that the agency is “concerned” about rising COVID-19 infections in China, urging Beijing again to provide rapid and accurate data. reports on hospitalizations and deaths, as well as real-time viral sequencing.

“WHO is concerned about the threat to life in China and has reiterated the importance of vaccination, including booster shots, to protect against hospitalization, serious illness and death.”

Also on Wednesday, US President Joe Biden said he was concerned about China’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

China was forced to change its “zero-COVID” policy last month after protests erupted in more than 20 Chinese cities following an apartment building fire that killed at least 10 people on Nov. part of the COVID measures, but officials said that was not the case.

Restrictions for travelers

Countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain, India, Japan, South Korea and others have imposed restrictions on travelers from China.

China has criticized the restrictions, calling them discriminatory. Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning said the travel restrictions “lack scientific basis”.

“We believe that the entry restrictions adopted by some countries targeting China lack scientific basis, and some excessive practices are even more unacceptable,” Ning said at a briefing on Tuesday.

The head of the world’s largest airline trade group on Wednesday criticized COVID restrictions on visitors from China, as the European Union moves to coordinate the response to an escalating COVID-19 crisis in China.

But the WHO chief said it was understandable that some countries were taking measures such as testing travelers arriving from the country to protect their own citizens amid the outbreak of the disease in China and with comprehensive data not available.

On Tuesday, the European Commission said most EU countries are in favor of introducing pre-departure COVID testing for travelers from China.

Meanwhile, Beijing plans to lift travel restrictions on its citizens despite a wave of COVID infections.