The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday criticized China's new "very narrow" definition of a death attributed to COVID, saying the statistics are out of step with the country's resumption of the epidemic.
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“We believe that the current figures released by China under-represent the true impact of the disease in terms of hospital admissions, intensive care admissions and especially in terms of deaths,” said Dr Michael Ryan, WHO official responsible for managing health emergencies, during a press conference.
China is currently facing its worst outbreak ever, following the abrupt abandonment in early December of its so-called “Zero COVID” policy.
Despite this unprecedented wave of contamination, the country reports very few deaths linked to COVID-19 after a controversial change in methodology for accounting for cases.
From now on, only people who died directly from respiratory failure linked to COVID-19 are counted in the statistics.
This change in methodology means that a large number of deaths will no longer be listed as being due to COVID.
“We think this definition is too narrow” because it must be “related to respiratory failure”, insisted Dr Ryan.
Last week, the WHO met with Chinese officials to discuss the explosion in the number of cases of contamination and hospitalizations.
"We continue to call on China for faster, regular and reliable data on hospitalizations and deaths, as well as more complete and real-time sequencing of the virus," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom. Ghebreyesus, during the press conference on Wednesday.
“This data is useful to WHO and the world and we encourage all countries to share it. Data remains essential for WHO to make regular, timely and robust risk assessments of the current situation and adapt its advice and guidance accordingly,” he noted.