Beijing, Jan 17 – Speculation about embellished corona death tolls in China is gaining new impetus after reports from doctors. Doctors told Reuters they had been told not to write respiratory failure from Covid disease on the death certificate as the cause of death. If the deceased had an underlying medical condition, it had to be listed as the main cause of death, according to a directive from a private hospital’s emergency department seen by Reuters.
Six doctors at public hospitals across China confirmed that they had either received similar verbal instructions that discouraged them from attributing deaths to Covid. Or they are aware that their hospitals have such guidelines. “Since it reopened in December, we have stopped classifying Covid deaths,” said a doctor at a major public hospital in Shanghai. “It’s pointless to do that because almost everyone is positive.”
Several doctors said they had been told such orders came from “the government”, although no one knew from which department. Three other doctors at government hospitals in different cities said they were not aware of such guidelines.
Seven relatives of the recently deceased told Reuters there was no mention of Covid on the death certificate, although the relatives either tested positive or showed symptoms similar to Covid. Social media is full of similar reports.
China’s Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Health Commission (NHC) could not immediately be reached for comment.
REPORTED DEATH NUMBER TOO LOW
After the government abandoned its strict zero-Covid policy in early December, the virus is spreading rapidly in the People’s Republic. However, authorities have reported a maximum of five deaths a day in recent weeks – a stark contrast to images of long lines outside funeral homes and numerous body bags emerging from overcrowded hospitals. Last week, the National Health Commission revised its figures significantly upwards. According to this, there were almost 60,000 deaths between December 8 and January 12. However, international experts estimate that there could be more than one million corona deaths this year.
Michael Baker, a public health researcher at the University of Otago in New Zealand, said the updated death toll was still low compared to China’s high level of infection. “Most countries are finding that most deaths from Covid are caused directly by the infection and not by a combination of Covid and other diseases,” he said.
Yanzhong Huang of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York said it was unclear whether the new data accurately reflected actual deaths, in part because the figures only included hospital deaths.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommended on Monday that China monitor excess mortality to get a more complete picture of the impact of the Covid surge.
For the first time since the Great Famine of 1961, China’s population fell last year. The National Bureau of Statistics estimates the number at 1.41 billion by the end of 2022, about 850,000 fewer than the previous year. A historically low birth rate of almost 6.8 per 1000 inhabitants contributed to the development. At the same time, the death rate rose to 7.4 per 1,000 inhabitants, the highest since the Cultural Revolution in 1974.
Background: Doctors in China have doubts about the official death toll for corona
Symbolic photo: Image by Alexandre C. Fukugava on Pixabay
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