China announces first COVID-19 death in nearly 6 months

China announces first COVID-19 death in nearly 6 months

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BEIJING — China announced its first new death from COVID-19 in nearly six months on Sunday as strict new measures are imposed in Beijing and across the country to guard against further outbreaks.

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 experienced a sharp increase in cases in the spring.

China on Sunday announced 24,215 new cases detected in the past 24 hours, the vast majority of them asymptomatic.

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.

This vulnerability is seen as one of the reasons China has mostly kept its borders closed and is sticking 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 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 defied advice from the World Health Organization to adopt a more targeted prevention strategy. Beijing has 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 aired on highly publicized Internet forums. censored.

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” seeking health care.

The Zhengzhou city government’s announcement came after the death of a second child was blamed on an overzealous antivirus app. The 4-month-old girl died after suffering from vomiting and diarrhea while quarantined at a hotel in Zhengzhou.

Reports say it took her father 11 hours to get help after health workers refused to provide help and she was eventually sent to a hospital 100 kilometers (60 miles) away ). Netizens expressed their anger at “zero COVID” and demanded that Zhengzhou officials be punished for not helping the public.

This follows an outcry over the death of a 3-year-old boy from carbon monoxide poisoning in the North West. 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 Xi’an and forced to sit outside in the cold for hours.

Clashes between authorities and residents weary of the restrictions have been reported in many cities despite tight control of information. A new round of mass testing has been ordered in Huizhu District in Guangzhou’s southern manufacturing hub, which has seen such friction involving migrant workers kicked out of their homes, the local government said on its microblog on Sunday. official.

Each of these cases brings promises from the party – most recently 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.

Nearly three years into the pandemic, as the rest of the world has opened wide and the impact on China’s economy has grown, 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. Local and international schools in urban districts of the city of 21 million people have gone online.

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