By our Correspondent
Available data from China shows no new coronavirus variant has been found there, but it also under-represents how many people have died in the country’s rapidly spreading outbreak, World Health Organisation (WHO) officials said on Wednesday.
Worrisomely, global unease has grown about the accuracy of China’s reporting of an outbreak that has filled hospitals and overwhelmed some funeral homes since Beijing abruptly reversed its “zero COVID” policy.
Meanwhile, the UN agency was releasing data provided by the Chinese Center For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a day after WHO officials met Chinese scientists.
And China has been reporting daily COVID-19 deaths in single figures.
But Mike Ryan, WHO’s emergencies director, told a media briefing that current numbers being published from China under-represented numbers of hospital admissions, ICU admissions and “particularly in terms of death.”
Also, WHO Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the U.N. agency was continuing to seek more rapid and regular datafrom China on hospitalisations and deaths.
Now, “WHO is concerned about the risk to life in China and has reiterated the importance of vaccination, including booster doses to protect against hospitalisation, severe disease and death,” he said.
Overall, China’s People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s official newspaper, sought to rally worried citizens for what it calls a “final victory” over COVID-19, rebutting criticism of its policy of strict isolation that triggered rare protests last year.
However, Beijing’s abrupt axing of those ultra-strict curbs last month has unleashed the virus on China’s 1.4 billion people, who have little immunity after being shielded since it emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan three years ago.
Furthermore, health officials abroad have been struggling to work out the scale of the outbreak and how to stop it spreading, with more countries introducing measures such as pre-departure COVID-19 tests for arrivals from China, moves that Beijing has criticised.
On its part, the European Union health officials were to meet on Wednesday to discuss a coordinated response to it.
Generally, China’s CDC analysis showed a predominance of Omicron lineages BA.5.2 and BF.7 among locally acquired infections, according to the data reported by the WHO.
This alerted Omicron disease type is the dominant variant based on recent genomic sequencing, confirming what scientists had already said but allaying concerns for now about a new variant emerging.
Sadly, many Chinese funeral homes and hospitals say they are overwhelmed, and international health experts predict at least 1 million COVID-related deaths in China this year.