BEIJING: China officially reported on Monday (Dec 19) its first COVID-related deaths since the government began dismantling strict anti-virus controls earlier this month, feeding anxiety that this could be the start of a grim trend as the virus rips through the country.
Monday’s two deaths were the first to be reported by the National Health Commission (NHC) since Dec 3, days before Beijing announced it was abandoning curbs which had largely kept the virus in check for three years but triggered widespread protests last month.
Though on Saturday, a Reuters journalist in Beijing saw hearses bearing dead lining the driveway to a designated COVID-19 crematorium, and about 20 yellow body bags containing corpses on the floor of an adjacent funeral parlour. Reuters could not immediately establish if the deaths were due to COVID-19.
Officially China has suffered just 5,237 COVID-related deaths during the pandemic, including the latest two fatalities, a tiny fraction of its 1.4 billion population and very low by global standards.
The NHC also reported 1,995 symptomatic infections for Dec 18, compared with 2,097 a day earlier. It stopped reporting asymptomatic cases last week citing a drop in mandatory PCR testing after China’s policy shift.
And there is growing doubt that China’s data is capturing the fast worsening situation on the ground.