China Should Eventually Calculate Covid Death Rates by Examining Excess Mortality

As a historic wave of infections sweeps throughout the country and concerns develop about the veracity of China’s official Covid estimates, the country plans to compute and then disseminate excess mortality data.

A team at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention has started making preparations to examine the measure of fatalities, according to top epidemiologist Wu Zunyou. With the goal of providing a more global picture of the impact of the current Covid wave, the concept of excess mortality has been adopted worldwide.

Excess mortality compares the number of deaths caused by the current Covid wave to the number of deaths that would have occurred anyway without the pandemic. “The deaths caused by Covid is a worldwide concern,” Wu said at a briefing in Beijing on Thursday “By calculating excess mortality, we can figure out what could have potentially been underestimated.”

When Covid initially surfaced in China’s key city of Wuhan, the CDC team conducted an excess mortality investigation. The National Health Commission incorporated over 1,300 fatalities from the city into its Covid death count in April 2020.

China Should Eventually Calculate Covid Death Rates
China Should Eventually Calculate Covid Death Rates

China has taken a lot of heat from the beginning of the epidemic for how it reported the size of the outbreak and how it handled the situation. This month’s unexpected reversal of Covid Zero spread the virus across the huge country of 1.4 billion people, and the government has once again come under fire for underreporting both case counts and Covid fatalities.

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As the previously widespread network of PCR testing booths closed, the official total for Covid infections became mostly worthless. And the recent adoption of a stricter definition of a Covid fatality — only those who die from respiratory failure caused by the virus are recorded — means the limited number of fatalities being reported contrast with images of turmoil across the nation’s hospitals and crematoriums.

At this time, China claims to be experiencing thousands of new cases per day. But the government’s top health body has calculated that there were roughly 37 million infections in a single day last week, exceeding the record global number of approximately 4 million in a single day earlier this year.

It was predicted earlier this month by the London-based research firm Airfinity Ltd, which specializes in predictive health analytics, that the country might experience more than 5,000 fatalities every day. With images of overloaded hospitals playing out across the country, officials on Thursday warned certain regions are now struggling with a rise of severe Covid patients.

The occupancy rate of intensive care unit beds for the whole country hasn’t exceeded the red line of 80%, but some sections of the nation are bracing for a surge in severe cases, said Jiao Yahui, official managing hospitals at the National Health Commission.

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Jiao noted that occupancy rates for intensive care unit beds are reaching or above 80% in several parts of China, including the capital city of Beijing and its surrounding province of Hebei, the eastern industrial center of Zhejiang, and the southern province of Sichuan.

Last Lines

China aims to compute and then share excess mortality statistics as worries grow over the reliability of the country’s official Covid figures amid an unprecedented wave of illnesses sweeping the country.

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