The World Health Organization (WHO) said Wednesday that China is “heavily underreporting” the number of deaths from Covid in that country.
The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which has not posted a daily briefing to its website since January 8, has reported just 37 deaths since the government’s draconian “zero Covid policy” was lifted, bringing the total number of deaths since the pandemic began to 5,272.
By contrast, the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center estimates that China has experienced nearly 18,000 Covid related deaths since the start of the pandemic.
China lifted its zero Covid policy in early December in response to nationwide protests in late November in which demonstrators made the unprecedented call for the resignation of President Xi Jinping and other leaders of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Those protests were sparked by a deadly fire in an apartment building made worse when fire trucks were blocked by pandemic control barriers and cars stranded by quarantined owners.
The zero Covid policy had involved highly limited travel restrictions and putting whole cities into quarantine at times. Meanwhile, China vaccinated the young and healthy first, fearing the shot’s side effects, and as a result the vaccination rate among China’s elderly remains quite low to this day.
Public health experts have warned that lifting Covid restrictions amid large swaths of under-vaccinated and unprotected vulnerable populations in China could lead to hundreds—if not thousands—of deaths.
So far, however, the WHO has said that it has not detected a variant of concern in China, even as cases of Covid have skyrocketed.