China reports 1st COVID-19 deaths in weeks — and that number may rise, experts say

China is reporting its first deaths linked to COVID-19 in weeks as cases surge amid the country lifting many of its so-called “zero COVID” policies.

The deaths, which were reported on Monday by the National Health Commission and occurred in Beijing, are the first recorded since Dec. 4.

No information was available about the deaths including the names, ages, sex and vaccination status of the patients.

For most of the pandemic, China has implemented strict measures, including widespread lockdowns and mass testing in an attempt to prevent outbreaks.

But over the past few months, there have been large outcries and growing public resentment over the disruption to daily life, leading Beijing to ease some restrictions such as people being allowed to isolate at home and schools without known infections being able to resume classes.

PHOTO: Customers buy medicine at a pharmacy as the local government distributes more fever medicines to the market, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, China, Dec. 19, 2022.

Customers buy medicine at a pharmacy as the local government distributes more fever medicines to the market, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, China, Dec. 19, 2022.

China Daily/VIA Reuters

However, a public health expert told ABC News a combination of under-vaccination and large swaths of unprotected vulnerable populations will lead to more deaths.

“What will happen with the new policy right now is most of the population in China will be infected by COVID,” said Dr. Ali Mokdad, an epidemiologist and chief strategy officer at the University of Washington Population Health Initiative. “In one way or another, they’ll be infected.”

According to the NHC, China has only recorded 5,237 COVID-19 deaths — much lower than the tolls reported by other Western countries — since the pandemic began, but experts agree this is likely an undercount. According to data from Johns Hopkins, China has had over 16,000 deaths since the pandemic started.

Mokdad said health officials only include those who died directly from COVID-19 in the official death count. Those with underlying medical conditions that were exacerbated by the virus or who incidentally tested positive for COVID are excluded.

However, he expects the number of deaths will rise over the next several weeks and months.

One mathematical model from the University of Washington’s Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation suggests there could be almost 323,000 total COVID-19 deaths in China by April 1 as a result of the shift in policy.

One reason deaths could rise is because of the lack of an effective vaccine.

In China, the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine has been administered since June 2021 when it received emergency use authorization. According to the World Health Organization, 87% of the population has been vaccinated, but the government says more than 90% are vaccinated according to China Daily, a state-run newspaper.

According to the WHO, the Sinovac vaccine is 100% effective against severe COVID-19. However, a Yale study found the two-dose regimen produced no neutralizing antibodies against the omicron variant.

Booster rates are also lagging with just 69.7% of those aged 60 and older as of Dec. 15 and 40% of those aged 80 and older are boosted as of early November, according to China Daily.

“Whatever China does, the simple fact they have a very susceptible population, a vaccine that’s not as effective against omicron, waning immunity and many of the elderly population not vaccinated, there will be lots of hospitalization and more deaths,” Mokdad said.

Another reason deaths could rise is because of under-vaccination and lack of exposure to the virus, due to lockdowns under the zero COVID policy, many people don’t have natural or vaccine-derived antibodies.

“They know nothing about COVID like you and I have been vaccinated or have gotten COVID-19 or both,” he said. “So, we’re not naive to cope with it and our body will remember it and then will mount a defense.”

He continued, “Many Chinese don’t have that luxury. And we are most concerned about the elderly, simply because they’re not vaccinated and the zero COVID policy protected them from infections in the past.”

Source ABC

A tech blog author and superhero who writes about technology and its impact on society, business, and everyday life

Related Posts

Elie Saab’s spring couture in Paris dreams of Thai escape

PARIS — Elie Saab whisked his guests away to Thailand for a Paris Fashion Week couture show Wednesday that gleamed with gold and intricate silk embroidery. Sheer diaphanous cloth floated…

Read more

Lloyd Morrisett, who helped launch ‘Sesame Street,’ dies

NEW YORK — Lloyd Morrisett, the co-creator of the beloved children’s education TV series “Sesame Street,” which uses empathy and fuzzy monsters like Abby Cadabby, Elmo and Cookie Monster to…

Read more

Why do so many older adults choose Medicare Advantage?

In 2022, 48% of Medicare beneficiaries were enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans instead of original Medicare, and experts predict that number will be higher in 2023. Medicare Advantage plans are…

Read more

North Carolina doctor sues over abortion pill access, in test case of federal power

In a lawsuit that could impact abortion access nationwide, a North Carolina doctor on Wednesday asked a federal district court to strike down the state’s restrictions on the abortion drug…

Read more

Edmunds: The pros and cons of software running your car

Software was a big theme for automakers attending CES 2023 in January. BMW, Stellantis, Volkswagen and a joint venture between Honda and Sony showed off upcoming or concept vehicles that…

Read more

Jill Biden’s inaugural wear to go on display at Smithsonian

WASHINGTON — First ladies typically donate their inaugural ball gowns to the Smithsonian Institution for its collection. Jill Biden is giving up two clothing ensembles, and neither one includes a…

Read more

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *