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WHO says China data underrepresents COVID surge and deaths



(Last Updated On: January 5, 2023)

China’s COVID-19 data is not giving an accurate picture of the situation there and underrepresents the number of hospitalisations and deaths from the disease, Reuters quoting a senior official at the World Health Organization said on Wednesday.

The U.N. agency was preparing to meet Chinese scientists again on Thursday as part of a wider briefing among member states on the global COVID-19 situation as concerns grow about the rapid spread of the virus in the world’s No. 2 economy.

On Tuesday, China’s top scientists presented data to a WHO technical advisory group showing no new coronavirus variant had been found in the country of 1.4 billion people, read the report.

That might ease some concerns about the outbreak since Beijing abruptly reversed its “zero COVID” policy last month.

But comments by WHO officials on Wednesday were the clearest criticism yet of China’s recent handling of the pandemic. It underscored worries about the accuracy and availability of Beijing’s data, hampering the fight against the disease which has killed more than 6.7 million and roiled global economies.

“We believe the current numbers being published from China underrepresent the true impact of the disease in terms of hospital admissions, in terms of ICU admissions, particularly in terms of death,” said Mike Ryan, WHO’s emergencies director.

He told a briefing in Geneva that the WHO believes the Chinese government’s definition for death is “too narrow”.

“We still do not have complete data,” said Ryan.

Late last month, the world’s most populous country narrowed its definition for classifying deaths as COVID-related, counting only those involving COVID-caused pneumonia or respiratory failure, raising eyebrows among world health experts, Reuters reported.

The WHO says deaths should be attributed to COVID-19 if they result from a “clinically compatible illness” in a patient with a probable or confirmed infection, and no other unrelated cause of death – like trauma – is involved.

China has reported five or fewer deaths a day since the policy U-turn. But 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 without urgent action.

Abdi Rahman Mahamud, director of the WHO’s alert and response coordination department, cautioned there may be another wave of infections as families gather for China’s Lunar New Year holiday in a few weeks – one of its busiest travel periods, read the report.

He said vaccination rates needed to increase and people should wear masks to protect themselves from infection.

But the WHO said there is “no inevitability” in terms of predictions of large numbers of deaths.

“It really does depend on the measures that are in place,” said the WHO’s COVID-19 technical lead Maria van Kerkhove.

She said the WHO was working with China to improve access to life-saving tools and cope with health workforce issues in badly-hit areas.

Earlier in the briefing, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reiterated that the agency is “concerned” about the surge in COVID-19 infections in China and again urged Beijing to deliver rapid and regular data on hospitalisation and death there as well as real-time viral sequencing.

“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,” Tedros said.

With viral circulation in China so high and comprehensive data not forthcoming, he said it is understandable that some countries are taking steps like testing travellers arriving from the country to protect their own citizens, Reuters reported.


China says 200 million treated, pandemic ‘decisively’ beaten



(Last Updated On: February 17, 2023)

China says more than 200 million of its citizens have been diagnosed and treated for COVID-19 since it lifted strict containment measures beginning in November.

With 800,000 of the most critically ill patients having recovered, China has “decisively beaten” the pandemic, according to notes from a meeting of the ruling Communist Party’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee presided over by President and party leader Xi Jinping, AP reported. 

China enforced some of the world’s most draconian lockdowns, quarantines and travel restrictions and still faces questions about the origins of the virus that was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019. Heavy-handed enforcement prompted rare anti-government protests and took a heavy toll on the world’s second-largest economy.

The official Xinhua News Agency quoted Xi as saying that policies to control the outbreak had been “entirely correct.” The abrupt lifting in November and December of the “zero COVID” policy that had sought to eliminate all cases of the virus led to a surge in infections that temporarily overwhelmed hospitals.

Case numbers have since peaked and life has largely returned to normal, although international travel in and out of China has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels.

China is now transitioning to a post-pandemic stage after a fight against the outbreak that was “extraordinary in the extreme,” Xinhua said.

The government will continue to “optimize and adjust prevention and control policies and measures according to the times and situations with a strong historical responsibility and strong strategic determination,” Xinhua said.

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Study suggests people who had COVID-19 risk new-onset diabetes



(Last Updated On: February 15, 2023)

A new Cedars-Sinai Medical Center suggests that people who have previously been infected with COVID-19 could stand an increased risk for new-onset diabetes.

The study’s results, conducted by researchers at the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai “have confirmed that people who have had COVID-19 have an increased risk for new-onset diabetes — the most significant contributor to cardiovascular disease.”

“Our results validate early findings revealing a risk of developing Type 2 diabetes after a COVID-19 infection and indicate that this risk has, unfortunately, persisted through the Omicron era,” said Dr. Alan Kwan, the author of the study and a cardiovascular physician at Cedars-Sinai.

“The research study helps us understand — and better prepare for — the post COVID-19 era of cardiovascular risk,” he said.

The study also suggests that the risk of Type 2 diabetes appears to be lower in those who had already been vaccinated against COVID-19 prior to their infection.

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Iran registers over 160 new COVID cases, 2 deaths



(Last Updated On: February 12, 2023)

The Iranian health ministry announced on Sunday that more than 160 new cases of COVID-19, and two deaths, had been recorded across the country in the past 24 hours.

“A sum of 161 new patients infected with COVID-19 have been identified in the country based on confirmed diagnosis criteria during the past 24 hours,” the Iranian Health Ministry’s Public Relations Center said on Sunday, adding “82 patients have been hospitalized during the same time span.”

“Unfortunately, two patients have lost their lives in the past 24 hours, increasing the number of the dead to 144,781,” the ministry noted.

FARS news agency reported that according to the ministry, 233 people infected with COVID-19 are in critical condition.

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