February 2, 2023

China grapples with political challenges as Covid death toll mounts

5 min read

And Beijing points to the past successes of this strategy – which includes only two reported cowardly deaths for 2021 – to ignite its claims of supremacy over Western governments.

“No effort should be spared to participate in every case, to save every patient, and to truly respect the value and dignity of every human life,” said Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who in recent days – Code has explicitly reiterated its support for the policy. Weeks – said at last year’s World Health Summit.

Now, that picture is changing, as for the first time in almost two years, the death toll from Quid in China is rising on a daily basis, amid an outbreak in Shanghai that has left a city of 25 million in seemingly endless condition. I have seen Strict lockdown.
Because April 17City officials say 238 cowardly patients have died – a large number of elderly people, all of whom, officials say, have died in a pandemic due to underlying conditions that began on March 1. Spread over 500,000 people.

The deaths mark a new stage of damage for China, as well as a high-risk political challenge.

According to health security expert Nicholas Thomas, an associate professor at Hong Kong City University, reporting death statistics is “like a double-edged sword for the authorities.”

“If the numbers are too small, it’s not only a matter of trust, but also of quarantine restrictions. If the numbers are too high, lockdown is justified, but the authorities have failed to control the virus.”

To date, government officials have so far prioritized suppressing the virus, even as public anger and economic risks are mounting under lockdown restrictions.

According to Thomas, so far, there is no sign of a change in policy, instead Beijing is “doubling its message to stop the virus”, even when the epidemic spreads, according to Thomas.

And since the zero-sum policy is clearly linked to Chinese leader Xi, it is clear that “this line will be maintained for the foreseeable future.”

By numbers

As the number of deaths and severe covidio cases in Shanghai has risen in recent days, city health officials have spoken out with increasing urgency about further strengthening the critical care response in the elderly and increasing vaccinations. – Although lockdown and large-scale testing seem to be preferred. Vaccination so far

Xiao Dandan, deputy director of the Shanghai Health Commission, said: “We need to coordinate the city’s medical resources, increase the number of critical medical teams … reduce the proportion of critically ill patients … and reduce the mortality rate. We have to do our best. ” Sunday.

“Elderly people should be vaccinated as soon as possible,” he said.

Earlier this month, Shanghai officials said 62 percent of people over the age of 60 had been vaccinated in Shanghai, an increase of 38 percent, but that number had dropped. 15% fully vaccinated For the most vulnerable people over the age of 80, according to state media. Of the 238 deaths in recent days, only 13 have been vaccinated, officials said Wednesday without giving details about full vaccinations or booster shots.
The low rate of vaccination in this group is a fatal flaw in China’s Covid 19 plan: when it was focused on Extensive resources for the preparation and manufacture of home-made vaccinesIt fell short of ensuring. In the arms of the elderly The population most likely to die from CoVID-19.

Now, as authorities maintain expectations that the country’s mortality rate will remain low, they have no choice but to rely on lockdowns to protect the vulnerable.

But already, an unknown number of deaths appear to be linked to tight control in the city, as sanctions have increased. Challenges in accessing medical care – An obstacle that city officials have repeatedly vowed to solve.
One fear is that Shanghai could see a crisis similar to that of Hong Kong, where An epidemic What started at the beginning of the year pushed the city’s mortality rate. Among the most in the world Ever since the epidemic started.
Hong Kong also experienced a low rate of vaccination among the elderly population 48% As of early March, people aged 70 and over had been fully vaccinated, and earlier this year only 25 percent of residents aged 80 and over had been vaccinated.

Case counting

But the comparison of Hong Kong also raises the question of how Shanghai has managed to keep its mortality rate so low.

More reports from Hong Kong. 9,000 Kwid 19 deaths Out of a total of 1.19 million cases since January this year.

At that rate, Shanghai should have seen 700 deaths for every 100,000 cases, according to Peter Collegin, an infectious disease specialist who is also a professor at the Australian National University Medical School.

Workers disinfect the residential community during the CoVID-19 lockdown in Shanghai.

Experts have also pointed to a lack of transparency around the quality of government officials in classifying the deaths of Covid 19.

Jin Dongyan, a professor at Hong Kong’s School of Biomedical University, said: “If there is no black-and-white definition of deaths from coyotes or coyote-related deaths, or how to report these deaths, then everything is up to this expert panel. It’s up to him to decide. ” Sciences “That’s the truth.”

Some of these mirrors raise concerns about whether there was a complete calculation of infections and deaths in Wuhan during China’s early 2020 outbreak, which overwhelmed hospitals – although China maintained its transparency throughout the epidemic. Has defended

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a 2020 statement: “China calculates and reports its confirmed cases and deaths based on facts … The relatively low number of confirmed cases and deaths is a comprehensive and strict measure by the Chinese government. Can be attributed to actions. “

Experts also warn that it is difficult to compare places with different diagnostic and disease control strategies, social factors and populations.

Shanghai’s in-depth investigation, for example, has raised millions of non-symbolic cases, some of which may have been left out of the counts elsewhere, potentially reducing the comparison.

The bureaucratic process and the time it takes to deal with the disease in positive cases can also delay reported deaths, with some experts believing that the worst-case scenario remains in Shanghai.

Experts say, meanwhile, that understanding the total number – not just the virus – but understanding the lockdown in Shanghai and other cities is important to assess the real cost of China’s control measures.

Xi Chen, an associate professor at the Yale School of Public Health, said the long-term consequences of the Shanghai lockdown, including cancer screening or mental health stress, would take time – and data – to clear, and then Can also be difficult to measure.

“We will often see two types of negative trauma,” he said of the consequences of going through the initial burden of death. “One, for those who eventually died, and, the other, those who survived but are living with the trauma attached to them.”

CNN’s Beijing bureau contributed to this report.

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