China’s Covid Mortality Reports Continue to Spread as Doubts Mount About Official Virus Data

According to social media posts, China seems to be experiencing an increase in Covid deaths in a wide area of the country. This raises the possibility that officials are trying to hide the true impact of their sudden shift from Covid zero.

People from Hebei, in the north, to Guangdong, in the south have been flocking to China’s Weibo platform to share their stories about long queues at funeral homes and crematoriums handling an increasing number of bodies. According to reports, the wave of deaths, which was centered in Beijing, but has seen seven deaths recently despite an increase in infections, is slowly spreading to other parts of the country.

In a Weibo posting, a man claimed he worked in Hebei’s crematorium. He stated that the facility was performing 22 cremations per day, up from four to five before December. The original post’s screenshots, which Bloomberg News can’t verify, are still being circulated across Chinese social media. The poster did not respond to our request for comment.

Another screenshot, showing the rise in obituaries published at universities to remember staff members who have died recently, was widely shared. Guangdong’s Weibo poster stated that the crematorium where he visited had staff who worked overtime to handle a number of elderly deaths, while Henan’s man said that a funeral parlour was so overcrowded that the bodies were being moved in corridors.

A woman in Chongqing claimed her grandfather died this weekend. She had to wait for a death certificate. Many people are asking questions on social media about how China can have so many fatalities — less than 20 since the first tentative steps towards easing Covid controls in November — and why they’re concentrated here.

Scepticism is based on solid groundwork. This low death toll is contrary to what has been observed around the globe, including in Hong Kong and Shanghai, where omicrons caused a rapid rise in infections, followed by a tsunami of deaths.

It’s notable because China has spent very little time in implementing mitigation steps to prepare for this month’s demise of Covid Zero. The population, particularly the elderly, is under-vaccinated and officials recently pledged to increase hospital beds.

It’s notable because China has spent very little time in putting in mitigation steps to prepare for this month’s dismantling and dismantling Covid Zero. The population, particularly the elderly, is under-vaccinated and officials recently pledged to increase hospital beds.

A change in the definition of a Covid fatality may have obscured the true number of deaths.

Wang Guiqiang, a leading infectious disease doctor, stated Tuesday that only people who died from respiratory failure or tested positive for Covid will be counted in the country. Even if they were positive for Covid, people who die from another disease or an event such as a heart attack will not be considered a virus death. Anyone who died while Covid positive, regardless of their underlying condition or cause, would have been counted.

Fatalities are not the only data point that has raised suspicion. The country has also abandoned efforts to count all infected people after eliminating frequent PCR testing.

China is trying to minimize the severity of the situation. China’s propaganda apparatus has changed from trumpeting President Xi Jinping’s Covid Zero approach and berating other countries who have adapted to living with the virus to downplaying its dangers and likening Covid to a cold.

China has kept a tight hold on information during the pandemic. This includes updates on vaccination progress, sporadic updates and tightly controlled press conferences. This makes social media snapshots an important tool to assess the extent of China’s worst-ever Covid epidemic.

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