BEIJING ( Associated Press) – China announced the first new death from COVID-19 in nearly half a year on Sunday, as new measures were implemented in Beijing and across the country to contain the outbreak.
The National Health Commission reported the death of an 87-year-old man in Beijing for the first time since May 26, bringing the country’s death toll to 5,227. The previous death was recorded in Shanghai, where there was a huge increase in infections over the summer.
Although China has a vaccination rate of over 92% with at least one dose, the figure is significantly lower among the elderly, especially those over 80. The commission did not give details about whether the deceased was vaccinated or not.
This vulnerability is believed to be one reason why China has maintained restrictions on its borders and pursues its strict “zero COVID” policy, which aims to contain the virus through quarantines, lockdowns, contact tracing and mass testing, despite the impact on daily life. The contagion has to be eradicated. economy, and to growing public discontent with the authorities.
In a partial response, the central city of Zhengzhou said on Sunday it would no longer require a negative COVID-19 test for children under the age of 3 or other “special groups” seeking medical attention.
The announcement from the Zhengzhou municipal government came after the death of a second child, which was blamed on over-enforcement of anti-virus measures. A 4-month-old girl who suffered from vomiting and diarrhea died during quarantine at a Zhengzhou hotel.
It reportedly took 11 hours for her father to receive medical attention after medical personnel refused to help, and he was eventually sent to a hospital 100 kilometers (60 mi) away. People expressed their outrage online at the “zero COVID” measures and demanded that officials in Zhengzhou be punished for failing to help the population.
The case follows an earlier scandal over the death of a three-year-old boy from carbon monoxide poisoning in the North West. His father blamed health workers in the city of Lanzhou, who he said had tried to prevent his son from being taken to hospital.
Other cases that have sparked outrage include a pregnant woman who had an abortion after being denied admission to a hospital in the northwestern city of Xi’am and forced to sit outside for hours in the cold.
The Communist Party, which rules the country, promised last week, as it has done after each of those cases, that emergency care would not be denied to people in quarantine or who could not show negative results.
However, the party has often been unable to control the often unauthorized, draconian measures imposed by local officials, who fear they will lose their jobs or be prosecuted if there is an outbreak in their jurisdiction.
Nearly three years after the pandemic began, the rest of the world has largely reopened and the impact on the Chinese economy is growing. Beijing has kept its borders nearly closed and advised no travel within the country either.
In the capital Beijing, people were told not to move between city districts and many restaurants, shops, malls, office buildings and apartment blocks were closed or isolated.
China reported 24,215 new cases on Sunday, most of them asymptomatic.