China has confirmed its first death from COVID-19 in nearly six months as the country grapples with a new recent spike in infections.
On Sunday, China’s National Health Commission reported the death from COVID-19 of an 87-year-old man in Beijing. The last reported death was in Shanghai on May 26.
Sunday’s announcement brings the total number of COVID-19 deaths in China to 5,227. That’s according to official figures released by the ruling Communist Party. The true number is likely much higher, given the party’s entrenched reputation for manipulating statistics, lack of outside scrutiny and a subjective test for determining causes of death.
With a population of 1.4 billion, China has officially reported only 286,197 cases since the virus was first detected in Wuhan in late 2019. Unlike other countries, patient deaths who had symptoms of COVID-19 were often attributed to underlying conditions such as diabetes. or heart disease, masking the true number of deaths from the virus and almost certainly leading to an undercount.
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China on Sunday announced 24,215 new cases detected in the past 24 hours, the vast majority of them asymptomatic.
While China has an overall vaccination rate of over 92% after receiving at least one dose, that number is considerably lower among older people – especially those over 80 – where it drops to just 65%. . The commission did not give details on the vaccination status of the last deceased.
This vulnerability is seen as one of the reasons why China has mostly kept its borders closed and sticks to its rigid “zero-COVID” policy which aims to eliminate infections through lockdowns, quarantines, case-finding and mass testing, despite the impact on normal life and the economy and mounting public anger against authorities.
Nearly three years into the pandemic, as the rest of the world has opened wide and the impact on China’s economy has grown, Beijing has mostly kept its borders closed and discouraged travel even outside China. interior of the country.
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In the capital Beijing, residents have been told not to travel between city districts, and scores of restaurants, shops, malls, office buildings and apartment buildings have been closed or sealed off. Local and international schools in urban districts of the city of 21 million people have gone online.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.