It's believed all places will make every effort to reduce COVID deaths
Published: Jan 15, 2023 12:19 PM
Patients receive oxygen therapy in a community healthcare institution in east China's Shanghai, Jan 4, 2023. Photo:Xinhua

Patients receive oxygen therapy in a community healthcare institution in east China's Shanghai, Jan 4, 2023. Photo: Xinhua

A Chinese health official from the Bureau of Medical Administration under the National Health Commission announced on Saturday that a total of 59,938 deaths related to COVID-19 occurred in medical institutions nationwide from December 8, 2022 to January 12, 2023, including 54,435 who died of underlying health issues complicated by COVID-19 infection. This is in line with the statistics of deaths from COVID-19 familiar to the public, and it is also a perceptual public understanding of COVID-19 death.

Many have noticed that the deaths announced on Saturday occurred in medical institutions. It suggests that if the death occurred outside the hospital, such as at home, it is not included in the death toll. Therefore, this figure should also be regarded as an incomplete statistic pertaining to COVID-19 death toll.

I noticed that some have voiced concerns that deaths in hospitals may also be underreported, and I personally hope that the scale of underreporting is limited. There have indeed been some cases of underreporting the death toll of major disasters such as floods in some places before, but fighting against this phenomenon has always been the concern and vigilance of our society.

From the perspective of the global situation, it is usually difficult to accurately count the number of deaths from COVID-19, and the statistics released by many countries cannot withstand scrutiny. As of May 2022, the official count of deaths directly attributable to COVID-19 and reported to WHO in that period, from January 2020 to the end of December 2021, is slightly more than 5.4 million. but WHO officials in May last year publicly stated that the WHO believed that many countries underestimated their own death tolls, and there were 14.9 million deaths associated with COVID-19 by the end of 2021, almost three times as many people have officially died as a result of COVID-19 as official data show.

No official data has been published in the US, and Johns Hopkins University's data is considered the most authoritative. The university has so far published about 1.1 million deaths in the US, but it has also published a figure of only 101.64 million infections. A recent joint estimate by Harvard University, Yale University and Stanford University found that 94 percent of Americans have been infected with the COVID-19 at least once. Multiply that number by the population of the US, and it get about 310 million infected people, three times as many as Johns Hopkins University's data. Looking at it this way, the university may also have underestimated the official death statistics.

Chinese authorities released the death toll for the past month or so on Saturday, presumably taking into account the difficulties of accurately counting deaths during the epidemic, and therefore used the definition "deaths in hospital", which should be seen as an objective effort. National Health Commission also presented additional information on Saturday, such as the fact that most figures in this wave of infections in China have reached the peak, with the number of hospitalizations and severe cases on the decline, but the number of severe cases in hospitals is still at a high level. We sincerely hope that the epidemic situation will accelerate to ease, and believe that all places will make every effort to reduce the number of deaths.

The author is a Global Times commentator. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn