China has confirmed its first death from COVID-19 in almost six months as the country grapples with another recent outbreak of infections.
On Sunday, China’s National Health Commission reported the death of an 87-year-old man from COVID-19 in Beijing. The last reported death was in Shanghai on May 26.
Sunday’s announcement brings China’s total COVID-19 death count to 5,227. That’s according to official figures released by the ruling Communist Party. The true number is likely much higher, given the party’s inveterate reputation for manipulating statistics, a lack of external scrutiny and subjective criteria for determining causes of death.
With a population of 1.4 billion, China has officially reported just 286,197 cases since the virus was first detected in Wuhan in late 2019. Unlike other countries, deaths of patients with COVID-19 symptoms are often were attributed to underlying conditions such as diabetes. or heart disease, obscuring the true number of deaths from the virus and almost certainly leading to an undercount.
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China announced on Sunday 24,215 new cases detected during the previous 24 hours, the vast majority of them asymptomatic.
While China has an overall vaccination rate of more than 92% after receiving at least one dose, that number is considerably lower among the elderly, particularly those over 80, where it drops to just 65%. The commission did not give details about the vaccination status of the last deceased.
That vulnerability is seen as one of the reasons China has kept its borders mostly closed and sticks to its rigid “zero-COVID” policy that seeks to eliminate infections through lockdowns, quarantines, case tracing and mass testing. , despite the impact on normal life and the economy and the increase in public anger towards 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 is mounting, Beijing has kept its borders closed and discouraged travel even within the country.
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In the capital Beijing, residents have been told not to travel between city districts, and a large number of restaurants, shops, malls, office buildings and apartment blocks have been closed or isolated. Local and international schools in the urban districts of the city of 21 million have moved online.
Associated Press contributed to this report.