Screengrab from the Ross Atkins report below.
The New Pandemic Tsunami In China Has Everyone Worried: No one is quite sure what is happening: Even the authorities say they don't know what the true numbers are! China’s hardline zero-Covid policy shielded its population until now—surging deaths projected by some studies to be as high as one million. So should the West be worrying and will it come our way once again as it did in early 2020?
For much of the early pandemic, China's hardline zero-Covid policy shielded its population from the kind of mass deaths that haunted Western nations – a contrast repeatedly driven home by the Communist Party to illustrate the supposed superiority of its rule. images of overflowing hospitals and busy funeral homes from the United States and other western countries featured heavily on China’s state-controlled television, where the deaths of over a million Americans from Covid are depicted as a gross failure of Western democracy.
However, recently the shoe has shifted to the other foot. Here in the west, the recent wave of the mild variant known as Omicron has been less potent due to the natural immunity of so many westerners who had previously been infected with Covid, while the Chinese are suffering an unprecedented wave of infections which has ripped through the country. (Possibly because of the earlier zero tolerance?) The Chinese population has had a couple of billion vaccinations, which have obviously been useless.
Not letting the truth get in the way of a good story!
China's state media is deliberately ignoring scenes of crowded hospital wards and packed crematoriums unfolding at home, while officials insist that by the government’s own count, few people are dying of Covid. One way in which Communism and Democracy work in tandem seamlessly I guess.
But as China abruptly abandoned the strategy of hardline zero-Covid policy, suddenly allowing people to come and go, the prospect of surging deaths – projected by some studies could be as high as one million, the government suddenly appear to be flip-flopping and navel-gazing.
Officially, China reported only eight Covid deaths this month – a strikingly low figure given the rapid spread of the virus and the relatively low vaccine booster rates among the vulnerable elderly. The official tally has been met with disbelief and ridicule online, where posts mourning loved ones dying of Covid abound.
Caixin, a Chinese financial magazine known for its investigative pieces, reported on the deaths of two veteran state media journalists infected with Covid, on days the official toll stood at zero. Other social media posts have described the frustration experienced by many in attempting to obtain a hearse and the difficulty of securing a slot for cremation at a funeral home.
When CNN visited a major crematorium in Beijing on Tuesday, the parking lot was completely packed, with a long line of cars snaking around the cremation area waiting to get in. Smoke billowed constantly from the furnaces, while yellow body bags piled up inside metal containers. Grieving family members waiting in line clutched photos of the deceased. Some told CNN they had been waiting for more than a day to cremate their loved ones, who died after contracting Covid.
One man told CNN the hospital where his friend passed away was too full to keep the body because so many people had died there. His friend’s body was left on the hospital floor, he said. In the nearby shops selling funerary items, a florist said she was running out of stock, and a convenience store owner said business had never been so busy.
In many parts of the country, crematoriums are struggling to keep up with an influx of bodies too, according to social media footage. Outside a Beijing hospital designated for Covid patients, a steady stream of elderly patients in wheelchairs entered the facility when CNN visited on Tuesday. A man outside the hospital said space is running out, and he had to go the night before to register his elderly family member for a bed.
A hazmat-suited worker, who was sorting through yellow bags of medical waste, said he had been working extra hours in the evening to deal with the surge of Covid patients. “There are a lot of old people particularly,” he said. Elderly Covid patients with underlying conditions were dying every day, the worker said.Counting Covid deaths
Facing growing scepticism that it is downplaying Covid deaths, the Chinese government defended the accuracy of its official tally by revealing it had updated its method of counting fatalities caused by the virus. According to the latest guidelines from the National Health Commission, only those whose death is caused by pneumonia and respiratory failure after contracting the virus are classified as Covid deaths, Wang Guiqiang, a top infectious disease doctor, told a news conference Tuesday.