WHO Chief says China under-reports COVID-19 deaths
Geneva: World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday said that the organization’s data on the number of deaths from COVID-19 worldwide is lowered due to the under-reporting of cases by China.
“Last week, almost 11,500 deaths were reported to the WHO: about 40 per cent from the Americas, 30 per cent from Europe and 30 per cent from the Western Pacific region. However, this number is almost certainly an underestimate, given the underreporting of COVID-related deaths in China,” Ghebreyesus told a briefing, according to the remarks published on the WHO website.
The WHO chief urged all countries to share true statistics so as to contribute to a more effective fight against the spread of the disease. Last week, Tedros asked China for reliable data on Covid hospitalizations and deaths in the country.
“We continue to ask China for more rapid, regular, reliable data on hospitalizations and deaths, as well as more comprehensive, real-time viral sequencing,” Tedros said at a media briefing in Geneva. This comment came after WHO held a high-level meeting with counterparts in China to discuss the surge in cases and hospitalisation.
Back in December, the Chinese government dropped its zero COVID-19 policy toward the pandemic after almost three years, leading to a mammoth rise in cases in a matter of few weeks. Later in January, obligatory PCR testing and centralized isolation for people arriving in China were canceled.
The sudden spike in the covid tally of China has forced a number of countries, including the United States, Italy, Japan and South Korea, to tighten measures against passengers arriving from the country.
During the media briefing, Tedros said throughout the pandemic, testing and sequencing helped WHO to track the spread and development of new variants.
“But since the peak of the Omicron wave, the number of sequences being shared has dropped by more than 90 per cent, and the number of countries sharing sequences has fallen by a third,” he said.
The WHO chief noted that countries cannot maintain the same levels of testing and sequencing they had during the Omicron peak. However, he added that the world cannot close its eyes and hope this virus will go away.
Tedros underlined that sequencing remains vital to detect and track the emergence and spread of new variants, such as XBB.1.5. “We urge all countries now experiencing intense transmission to increase sequencing, and to share those sequences,” he added.