The World Health Organization has received no data from China on new COVID-19 hospitalizations since Beijing reversed its zero-COVID policy, prompting some health experts to question whether it might be hiding information about the extent of its outbreak.
However, the WHO said the gap in the data could be due to Chinese authorities simply having difficulty counting cases.
The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in China was rising ahead of Beijing’s Dec. 7 decision to ease movement restrictions, a weekly report from the World Health Organization showed, aimed at curbing any spread of the virus but sparking an extraordinary public outcry. Protests, and hampered the world’s second largest economy.
They peaked at 28,859 as of Dec. 4, the highest number China has reported since COVID-19 first emerged three years ago, according to a World Health Organization chart, but no figures have been included in the last two reports.
WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris said questions about data reporting should be directed to the countries concerned. The Chinese diplomatic mission in Geneva did not respond to questions from Reuters.
China has often been accused of downplaying its COVID outbreak, and some experts say its narrow criteria for determining the death toll will understate the true toll. With some estimates predicting massive deaths ahead, China has been stepping up efforts to strengthen its health system.
Lawrence Gostin, a Georgetown University law professor who closely follows the WHO, called the missing data “very suspicious.”
“What it tells me is that China is hiding data that is critical to understanding the full impact of its decision to end its zero-COVID strategy,” he told Reuters.
Countries often try to hide the extent of disease outbreaks, said Adam Kamradt-Scott, a professor of global public health at the European University Institute.
“It’s hard to criticize China when other countries are reporting no COVID cases (at all),” he said.
WHO emergencies chief Mike Ryan pointed to possible capacity issues. “I don’t want to say China is actively not telling us what’s going on. I think they’re behind,” he said.
Global rules on disease outbreaks require countries to exchange information on ongoing outbreaks, but cannot enforce them.
(Aside from the title, this story is unedited by NDTV staff and published via a syndicated feed.)
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