China confirms its first COVID-19 death since May as authorities try to clamp down on surging cases

China confirmed its first COVID-19 death in nearly six months as the country deals with another recent outbreak of infection.

On Sunday, China’s National Health Commission reported the COVID-19 death of an 87-year-old man in Beijing. The last reported death was in Shanghai on May 26.

People wearing face masks walk along a pedestrian shopping street in the Wangfujing shopping district in Beijing, Saturday, November 19, 2022.
(AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

With Sunday’s announcement, the total number of deaths from COVID-19 in China has risen to 5,227. This is according to official figures released by the ruling Communist Party. The true number is likely much higher, given the party’s entrenched reputation for rigging statistics, and the lack of external scrutiny and subjective criteria for determining causes of death.

China has a population of 1.4 billion and has officially reported only 286,197 cases since the virus was first detected in Wuhan in late 2019. Unlike other countries, deaths of patients who developed symptoms of COVID-19 are often attributed to underlying conditions such as diabetes. . or heart disease, which obscures the true number of deaths from the virus and almost certainly leads to a lower number.

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On Sunday, China announced 24,215 new cases detected in the past 24 hours, the vast majority of them asymptomatic.

While the overall vaccination rate in China is over 92% after receiving at least one dose, this figure is much lower among the elderly — especially those over 80 — dropping to just 65%. The committee did not give details about the vaccination status of the deceased.

A man takes a swab sample for a nucleic acid test for coronavirus disease at a testing booth, in Beijing, China on November 11, 2022.

A man takes a swab sample for a nucleic acid test for coronavirus disease at a testing booth, in Beijing, China on November 11, 2022.
(Reuters/Tingshu Wang)

This vulnerability is one of the reasons China has kept its borders mostly closed and stuck to its strict “Zero COVID” policy that seeks to stamp out infections through lockdowns, quarantines, case tracing and mass testing, despite the impact on normal life and the economy and growing public anger over the authorities.

Nearly three years into the pandemic, while the rest of the world has largely opened up and the impact on the Chinese economy has soared, Beijing has kept its borders mostly closed and discouraged travel even within the country.

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In the capital Beijing, residents have been asked not to travel between city districts, and a large number of restaurants, shops, malls, office buildings and apartment complexes have been closed or quarantined. Local and international schools in the metropolitan areas of the city of 21 million have been moved online.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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