TAIPEI, Taiwan ( Associated Press) – China only counts deaths from pneumonia or respiratory failure in its official COVID-19 death toll, a Chinese health official said. It is a strict definition that limits the number of reported deaths amid the virus outbreak after the country lifted restrictions against the pandemic.
Wang Guiqiang, chief of infectious diseases at Peking University No. 1 Hospital, said the death toll from COVID-19 does not include those with pre-existing medical problems.
Whether for flu or COVID-19, China has always used conservative criteria in its medical statistics. In most countries, such as the United States, recommendations stipulate that any death where COVID-19 was a factor is counted as a death linked to COVID-19.
In practice, Wang’s comments on Tuesday were merely publicly clarifying what the country has done during the pandemic.
China reported no coronavirus deaths on Wednesday, in fact subtracting one from the official count, which stood at a total of 5,241 people, according to the daily report from the National Health Commission, which did not specify the reason for the return.
The clarification of how China officially records COVID-19 deaths came amid a surge in cases across the country after restrictions were lifted. But it’s hard to get an accurate picture of the outbreak because authorities have stopped requiring PCR tests and many people are testing at home. There are stories of many patients in cities like Beijing and Shanghai.
Shanghai was hit this year by an outbreak sparked by the Omicron variant. Several people told the Associated Press at the time that their elderly relatives who had tested positive for COVID-19 and died were not included in the city’s official death count. When patients had underlying diseases, their death was attributed to those previous problems.
An Associated Press investigation later revealed that the data was flawed because of the way health officials compile their figures, as they apply very narrow, non-transparent and sometimes variable criteria, as was the case in Shanghai when officials had changed its definition of positive cases. ,
Those more restrictive norms mean that the death toll from COVID-19 will always be significantly lower than in other countries.
An Associated Press reporter saw several people being carried from funeral homes in Beijing last week, and two relatives told the Associated Press that their relatives had died after testing positive for COVID-19. However, the country did not report any death from the disease last week.
Each country counts cases and deaths differently, and head-to-head comparisons often yield little information due to patchy diagnostic tests.
However, experts have reiterated that authorities should err on the side of discretion when counting the dead. Problems with those calculations have raised questions in countries from South Africa to Russia.
The World Health Organization estimated in May that about 15 million people had died from COVID-19 or from overloading of health systems in the first two years of the pandemic. This is well above the official death toll of 6 million people for that period.