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China reports first COVID death in six months; curbs in place

The 87-year-old Beijing man’s death was the first reported by the National Health Commission since May 26, bringing the total death toll to 5,227.

Representative photo: iStock

China, which imposed strict containment measures following a new outbreak of COVID-19 on Sunday, reported its first death from the disease in six months.

The 87-year-old Beijing man’s death was the first reported by the National Health Commission since May 26, bringing the total death toll to 5,227.

The previous death was reported in Shanghai, which has seen a sharp rise in cases over the summer.

While China has an overall vaccination rate of over 92% after receiving at least one dose, that number is considerably lower among older people, especially those over 80, where it drops to just 65%. . The commission did not give details on the vaccination status of the last deceased.

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The low rate of inoculation among the elderly is one reason China has mostly kept its borders closed and sticks to its rigid zero-COVID policy that seeks to eliminate infections through lockdowns, quarantines, case-finding and mass testing, despite the impact on normal life and the economy and mounting public anger against the authorities.

China says its tough approach has paid off with far lower numbers of cases and deaths than in other countries, such as the United States. With a population of 1.4 billion, China has officially reported just 286,197 cases since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019. That compares to 98 .3 million cases and 1 million deaths in the United States, with its population of 331.9. million, since the virus first appeared there in 2020.

China’s figures have been questioned, however, based on the ruling Communist Party’s long-established reputation for manipulating statistics, lack of outside scrutiny and highly subjective criteria for determining cause of death.

Unlike other countries, deaths of patients who showed symptoms of COVID-19 were often attributed to underlying conditions such as diabetes or heart disease, obscuring the true death toll from the virus and almost certainly leading to undercount. Critics have particularly pointed to this year’s outbreak in Shanghai. The city of more than 25 million people has reported only about two dozen coronavirus deaths despite an outbreak that lasted more than two months and infected hundreds of thousands of people in the world’s third-largest city.

China has also snubbed advice from the World Health Organization (WHO) to adopt a more targeted prevention strategy. Beijing has also resisted calls to cooperate fully with the investigation into the origin of the virus, angrily rejecting suggestions that it may have fled from a lab in Wuhan, seeking instead to turn those accusations against the US military.

In any case, the party’s instinct to use total control, even using routine test information to limit people’s movements, prevailed, with only slight concessions made to criticisms posted on forums. Highly censored internet.

In response to the latest outrage, the central city of Zhengzhou said on Sunday it would no longer require a negative COVID-19 test for infants under 3 and other special groups requiring health care. The Zhengzhou city government’s announcement came after the death of a second child was blamed on an overzealous antivirus app. The four-month-old girl died after suffering from vomiting and diarrhea while in quarantine at a hotel in Zhengzhou. Reports say it took her father 11 hours to get help after health workers refused to provide assistance and she was eventually sent to a hospital 100 kilometers away. Netizens expressed their anger at the zero COVID and demanded that Zhengzhou officials be punished for not helping the public.

Earlier, a three-year-old boy had died of carbon monoxide poisoning in the northwest. His father blamed Lanzhou city health workers, who he said tried to stop him from taking his son to hospital.

Other cases include a pregnant woman who miscarried after being refused entry to a hospital in the northwest city of Xian and forced to sit outside in the cold for hours. Each of those cases brings promises from the party last week that people in quarantine or who cannot show negative test results would not be barred from getting emergency help.

Yet the party has often found itself unable to rein in the strict and often unauthorized measures imposed by local officials who fear losing their jobs or being prosecuted if outbreaks occur in areas under their jurisdiction.

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Nearly three years into the pandemic, as the rest of the world has opened wide and the impact on China’s economy grows, Beijing has mostly kept its borders closed and discouraged travel even outside China. interior of the country. In the capital Beijing, residents have been told not to travel between city districts, and scores of restaurants, shops, malls, office buildings and apartment buildings have been closed or sealed off. China announced 24,215 new cases on Sunday, the vast majority of which are asymptomatic.

(With agency contributions)