The World Health Organization has accused China of “underrepresenting” the severity of your Covid outbreak and criticized its “narrow” definition of what constitutes a Covid death, as top global health officials urge Beijing to share more data on the explosive spread.
“We keep asking Porcelain to obtain faster, regular and reliable data on hospitalizations and deaths, as well as more complete real-time viral sequencing,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference in Geneva on Wednesday.
“WHO is concerned about the risk to life in China and has reiterated the importance of vaccination, including booster doses, to protect against hospitalization, severe illness and death,” it said.
Speaking in more detail, WHO’s executive director for health emergencies, Mike Ryan, said the figures released by China “underrepresent the true impact of the disease” in terms of hospital and ICU admissions as well as deaths.
He acknowledged that many countries have experienced delays in reporting hospital data, but noted that China definition “narrow” of a Covid death as part of the problem.
The country only lists Covid patients who succumbed to respiratory failure as having died from Covid. In the two weeks to January 5, China reported fewer than 20 deaths from local Covid cases, according to figures posted on the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.
On Thursday, China’s Foreign Ministry said the country has always shared epidemic information “in a timely, open and transparent manner” and insisted its Covid-19 situation was “under control.”
“The WHO secretariat is expected to take a science-based, objective and fair position and play a positive role in tackling the pandemic globally,” spokesman Mao Ning told a daily briefing.
Chinese experts will attend a regular briefing of WHO member states on Thursday to “respond to technical issues of concern to other parties,” Mao said, adding that China will continue to closely monitor potential virus mutations and release information. relevant.
WHO officials, who have grappled with Beijing’s tight control of data access during the pandemic, have become increasingly vocal in their pleas for reliable information as a major outbreak sweeps through the centers. urban areas in China following an abrupt relaxation of disease controls last month.
There, the outbreak has overwhelmed hospitals and crematoriumsit triggered shortages of basic medicines and raised fears of an even darker month ahead, as experts warn of a spread to poorer rural areas during the upcoming Lunar New Year.
The rise in cases in a country of 1.4 billion people has also raised global concerns about the possible emergence of new variants and China’s levels of monitoring and data sharing. Several countries have implemented Covid test requirements for travelers from China, citing the paucity of data on the strains circulating there.
On Wednesday, the European Union “strongly encouraged” its member states to introduce a requirement for a negative Covid test for passengers traveling from China to the EU, according to a statement issued by the bloc’s Swedish presidency.
The WHO’s Tedros said on Wednesday that it was “understandable” that some countries were taking these measures, “with circulation in China so high and comprehensive data not available.”
China’s Foreign Ministry earlier this week denounced the measures as unscientific and vowed to take “corresponding countermeasures for different situations in accordance with the principle of reciprocity.”
In an updated online statement Thursday, GISAID, an international initiative to share genomic data on influenza and covid-19 viruses, said China had continued to “increase” its surveillance efforts and preliminary analyzes indicated that data reported closely resemble those of known variants that are already spreading. Worldwide.
Chinese health officials also presented recent genomic data to a WHO advisory body during a closed-door meeting on Tuesday. In a statement on Wednesday, the WHO advisory body said the variants detected in China are known and have been circulating in other countries, and the Chinese CDC has yet to report any new variants.
but the advice The group and senior WHO officials stressed the need for more genomic data in the future. The latest development adds to longstanding challenges for the UN body, which faced criticism early in the pandemic that it did not push China hard enough for data amid concerns Beijing was withholding critical information.
“There is much more data that needs to be shared from China and furthermore from around the world for us to be able to track this pandemic as we enter this fourth year,” Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on Covid, said Wednesday.
“We need more information about sequencing across the country, (and for) those sequences to be shared with publicly available databases like GISAID so that more in-depth analyzes can be done,” he said.
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