China upholds truth, openness in disclosing information on COVID-19 deaths: NHC officials
Published: Dec 29, 2022 11:49 PM
Medical staff work at the intensive care unit (ICU) of the southern branch of Renji Hospital in Shanghai, east China, April 24, 2022.Photo:Xinhua

Medical staff work at the intensive care unit (ICU) of the southern branch of Renji Hospital in Shanghai, East China, April 24, 2022. Photo:Xinhua

In response to rumors that China's COVID-19 death toll is understated, experts and officials from China's health authorities said that China has insisted on the principle of truth and openness in disclosing information on deaths and severe cases for COVID-19 and will uphold the principle. They also said that its current standards for identifying COVID-19 fatality are scientific and in line with international norms.

From a public health perspective, it is difficult to accurately assess the death rate during the early stages of an epidemic; however, when this period has passed, an accurate assessment can be made. China's present top priority is to prevent severe cases and fatalities, said Liang Wannian, head of China's COVID-19 response expert panel under the National Health Commission (NHC).

Liang made the remarks during an interview with the media together with other analysts on Friday. Recently, some western media have hyped China's epidemic situation, especially after the country announced on Monday that the management of COVID-19 will be downgraded from Class A to Class B from January 8.

The death toll is an important index to assess how an epidemic harmed people's health and safety and the Chinese government and expert team have always attached great importance to it, said Liang.

"At current period, [we should] put priority on preventing severe cases and deaths. This is also the adjustment of the prevention focus - to put priority on preventing deaths," said Liang.

When answering questions on whether China will adjust the criteria of death for COVID-19, Jiao Yahui from the NHC said that the world's current standards for COVID-19 deaths are mainly divided into two categories: people infected with coronavirus with positive nucleic acid test results died for respiratory failure caused by COVID-19; people died within 28 days after being infected with the coronavirus. China has adopted the first set of standards since 2020.

China has always insisted on the principle of truth and openness to release information on deaths and severe cases of COVID-19 and will continue upholding that principle, said Jiao.

China previously disclosed death cases, including those caused by COVID-19 and those who were afflicted with the virus but died from basic diseases. China has consistently insisted that the scientific standards for coronavirus death identification and such standards are likewise comparable to international norms, Jiao said.

Hospitals are required to save patients no matter what the origin of their severity is in order to reduce severity and deaths. Any death caused by coronavirus will be reported in line with the legislation and regulations, said Jiao.

Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, also said that the term "excess mortality," which has been used in epidemiology and public health, can assess possible underestimation. After the breakout of the COVID-19 in 2020, the team from the center accomplished analysis on possible excess morality and released the result to the public.

The team has conducted related work to assess the possible excess mortality in this round of epidemic outbreak and will release the result later, said Wu.

Global Times