Shanghai reports first official Covid deaths since week-long lockdown

Three elderly people aged 89 to 91 died from Covid on Sunday after their condition worsened in a hospital, the Shanghai Municipal Health Commission said. statement Monday.

All three had not been vaccinated and had comorbidities such as coronary heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure, officials said.

The city reported 2,417 symptomatic cases and 19,831 asymptomatic infections on Monday, slightly fewer than the previous day, according to the health commission.

The death toll seems startlingly low compared to the sheer number of cases – more than 370,000 people in Shanghai have been infected since March 1, and no one died from Covid until Sunday, according to official counts.

For comparison, in another financial center of the Hong Kong region, almost 9000 Covid deaths out of 1.18 million total cases as of January this year.
Experts attribute the high death rate in Hong Kong to the high proportion of unvaccinated older people. As of early March, only 48% of people aged 70 and over had received two doses. And earlier this year, only 25% of residents aged 80 and over had been vaccinated.

The low official death toll in Shanghai has raised questions from some experts outside of mainland China, especially since vaccination coverage for older people in Shanghai is not much higher than in Hong Kong.

On Monday, Shanghai officials said 62% of the city’s residents over 60 had been fully vaccinated, while 38% had received a booster shot. The number of fully vaccinated people over the age of 80 was even lower, total fifteen%reports the mouthpiece of the Communist Party People’s Daily.

Jin Dongyan, a virologist at the University of Hong Kong, said Shanghai’s low death rate is partly the result of how Covid deaths are counted in mainland China.

“The methods used by Hong Kong and the mainland to count deaths are completely different. More than 90% of Covid deaths reported in Hong Kong will not be counted in the mainland,” he said.

According to Jin, in Hong Kong, a person is considered to have died from Covid if they have been confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus less than 28 days before their death, even if they died by suicide or a traffic accident.

“On the mainland, if the deceased had comorbidities, most of them would have been categorized as having died from diseases other than Covid,” Jin said.

In Shanghai, the number of officially reported severe cases is also low. According to Wu Jinglei, director of the Shanghai Health Commission, only 16 severe cases were being treated in the hospital as of Saturday. “One of them is fully vaccinated, the rest are not vaccinated against Covid-19,” he said.
Chinese health officials noted the high proportion of asymptomatic and mild cases in the country caused by the Omicron virus. Wang Guiqiang, Beijing infectious disease doctor. said at a government press conference on 6 April this is because the Omicron variant is less virulent, people are vaccinated, and active testing has identified many cases early on during the incubation period. But Wang warned that Omicron is still dangerous for the elderly, especially those who have not been fully vaccinated.

This is only the second time mainland China has reported a death from Covid this year. The northeastern province of Jilin reported two deaths last month, the first in more than a year. During 2021, only two Covid deaths were reported in mainland China, both in January.

Chinese officials and state media attributed the country’s low death rate to the perceived success of its Covid strategy, often contrasted with the hundreds of thousands of deaths reported in Western countries.

But increasingly, the low official death toll is also raising questions among many Shanghai residents about whether such strict measures are justified. the lives of millions of people.

Deaths are being reported as the metropolis of 25 million continues to endure a debilitating lockdown that has effectively brought the busy, bustling business center to a halt.

Residents have been locked in their homes for three weeks, with many complaining about food shortages, lack of access to medical care, poor conditions in makeshift quarantine camps, and harsh measures such as separating infected children from their parents.

On China’s heavily censored social media, users are resorting to creative ways to express their growing dissatisfaction with the prolonged lockdown, including posting under seemingly inappropriate hashtags that contain veiled criticism or sarcasm. But these hashtags are also often censored after they become widely shared. Attention.

On Sunday, the latest censored hashtag of Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service, was the first line from China’s national anthem: “Stand up! Those people who refuse to be slaves!”

Additional reporting by Simone McCarthy and CNN’s Beijing Bureau.

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