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Relatives Angry Because Covid Stopped Chinese Death Certificates: 'What Are You Trying To Hide?'

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After spending several weeks in a crowded hospital in eastern Jiangsu province caring for his 53-year-old father who succumbed to Covid-induced pneumonia, Wang was shocked to learn that the illness that claimed his life on Saturday could not be printed. in his death. certificate.

“It’s an absurd. Someone dies and we can’t even write down the exact cause,” said the 23-year-old, asking to be identified only by her last name.

Since the lifting of zero Covid controls in China, hospitals have been flooded with patients and crematoriums have struggled to keep up with demand. As a result, many analysts expressed surprise that the official death toll was not higher.

In the period from December 8 to January 12, the official death toll was 59,938, according to revised health facility death figures presented by the National Health Commission last weekend, above initial claims. of just 37 deaths.

Airfinity, a health data analysis group, estimated the death toll to be 10 times higher, or 641,000 deaths, assuming 104 million infections in the month to January 18. January 11, but have not published an estimate for the total number of deaths.

One possible reason for the lower-than-expected numbers, according to several relatives and medical professionals across the country, is that Chinese authorities are keeping “Covid-19” off the death certificates of many people who die from the virus.

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Six relatives who have lost loved ones to the coronavirus in recent weeks said they were dismayed to see death certificates filled out with “pneumonia” or “heart disease” or other causes of death instead of Covid.

Several medical professionals told the Financial Times that local authorities had discouraged them from including the coronavirus in official documents, complicating the process or actively telling medical institutions not to include the words.

In China, death certificates are drawn up by the hospital, local community clinic or neighborhood committee if they die at home. In some cases, the police can draw up death certificates, which are necessary for dead bodies to be cremated.

In Wang’s case, the hospital referred his family to a community clinic to process the death. Authorities entered “viral pneumonia (unspecified)” as the official cause of death.

“They said we cannot include Covid. My mom got a little frustrated and questioned them – can common pneumonia kill people? . . but we didn’t want to argue with them, so we just agreed to write pneumonia,” she said.

His account is echoed by hundreds of people posting online and in interviews with family members who have lost loved ones to Covid and asked not to be named.

People receive intravenous therapy and oxygen therapy in the emergency room of a hospital in Shanghai
Hospitals in China have been flooded with elderly Covid patients and crematoriums have struggled to keep up with demand © Alex Plaveski/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

In Beijing, the grandson of a 90-year-old man who died in hospital after three days of Covid fever said doctors had listed “heart disease”, his former condition, as the cause of death. Another woman from the capital said that her 93-year-old mother-in-law died after 10 days in hospital because of Covid, but the family could only put “pneumonia” on the certificate. The granddaughter of an elderly man who died in eastern Jiangsu province from Covid-related respiratory failure said her death was officially attributed to an “underlying illness”.

In northern Jilin province, a woman told the Financial Times that a scan showed that Covid had ravaged her grandmother’s lungs, but the hospital would not allow a Covid test and officially categorized her death as due to “coronary heart disease”. , a previous medical problem.

The omissions generated a series of complaints on Chinese social networks. “What are you trying to hide? Why is Covid taboo? We had a positive test result, the truth is Covid,” said a Weibo user in Liaoning province.

These attempts to leave the coronavirus off death certificates call into question the reliability of the latest Covid death numbers in China, mainly due to the delay in updating them.

Jiao Yahui, a senior NHC official, said Saturday that it took a long time to publish the updated number because hospitals had to comb through death records, producing a “relatively large amount of data and information” to analyze. She did not say whether they relied on the death certificates, and the NHC did not respond to a faxed request for comment.

Doctors who spoke to the Financial Times said the official impetus to downplay Covid deaths was clear. An emergency medicine doctor in a small town in southern Guangdong province said he and his colleagues were told: “Death certificates cannot include ‘xinguano‘ [Covid-19] those two characters.”

Another doctor from a large hospital in nearby Guangzhou added: “I don’t understand, but this is what the [hospital] leaders told us to do. Maybe it’s just to save face.

In the Chinese capital, three nurses at community clinics tasked with writing death certificates for those who die at home said they were not “qualified” to attribute a death to Covid or gave other reasons why they could not include it. “The most we can do is write ‘suspected Covid’ if they do a PCR test,” said a nurse in central Beijing.

While a doctor at a major hospital in Shanghai said he was never directly ordered to omit Covid from death certificates, “they made it too strict and complicated” to include, he said. “Include [Covid-19] the case needs to be reviewed by the local Center for Disease Control. There is no benefit to issuing this certificate with Covid on it.”

For the relatives of those who suffered from Covid, the non-recognition of the cause of death adds to an already traumatic experience.

Wang said the hospital where his father died was overcrowded with sick Covid patients. “To the end, he couldn’t get a respirator,” she said. “I felt helpless. We were in a hospital, but I couldn’t get my father treated.”