China reduces 1 Covid death count as they are only counting those who die of respiratory failure

Limiting diagnosis of death from COVID.

Keyla Supharta | December 22, 2022, 05:20 PM

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China's official toll of Covid deaths will only include those who died from respiratory failure or pneumonia caused by the virus, the BBC reported.

Previously, Covid infected people who died of an illness were counted as a Covid death, according to AFP.

On Dec. 20, China's National Health Comission (NHC) took out one death from its official toll after the verification, lowering the total number of Covid fatalities to 5,241.

No death was reported on Dec. 21.

Six deaths have been reported since China announced the loosening of Covid restrictions nationwide on Dec. 7 -- two deaths were reported for Dec. 18, five deaths on Dec. 19, and one death was deducted on Dec. 20, making the final count six.

China's definition of Covid related death is narrow

Michael Ryan, the executive director of World Health Organization's Health Emergencies Programme, said at a press conference on Wednesday (Dec. 21) that China's definition of Covid related deaths is "quite narrow". 

“People who die of Covid die from many different (organ) systems’ failures, given the severity of the infection,” Ryan said. “So limiting a diagnosis of death from Covid to someone with a Covid positive test and respiratory failure will very much underestimate the true death toll associated with Covid." 

Ryan also said that epidemiologic data reporting from China is lagging behind. It could be "that the reported data is behind the reality".

"We don't want definitions to get in the way of actually getting the right data."

Surging Covid cases

There have been reports of surging Covid cases since China eased its zero-Covid policy earlier this month on Dec. 7.

The number of reported cases increased from 354,017 on Dec. 7 to 389,306 on Dec. 21.

However, these numbers may not be representative of the true Covid cases in China.

Crematoriums in Beijing have reported a surge in demand, while funeral homes in Guangzhou also reported that more funerals are being held.

Speaking at a press conference on Dec. 14, an official from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) spoke about the adoption of new policies that led to a relative drop in the number of reported cases as compared to before.

Under the new policies, people with mild symptoms are to do testing at home instead of going to medical institutions.

"Therefore, this information is not included in the record system," he said.

Shortage of fever drugs

The nationwide Covid outbreak also caused a shortage of fever drugs, making it difficult for residents in China to get their hands on over-the-counter medicines.

Many Chinese nationals in Singapore also sent medicines back home in bulk due to concerns of supply scarcity.

However, China has claimed that the country's production capacity of Covid medicines can meet the need of the general public.

Speaking at the press conference on Dec. 14, a Chinese official said the government is working to systematically and orderly increase the production capacity of necessary medicines.

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