According to the Wall Street Journal, Shanghai has recorded 450,000 new coronavirus cases since March 1. Despite hundreds of thousands of people in Shanghai being infected, Reuters reported a total of only 51 deaths as of Sunday, April 24, up from 39 cases a day earlier.

According to the New York Times, China has officially reported fewer than 5,000 deaths over the past 2 years.

China’s number of COVID-related deaths is narrower than in other nations. The Chinese government defines and names patients who die from the infection as victims of other diseases.

The French media outlet RFI cited Shanghai’s official announcement on April 18 that “the direct cause of death was caused by the underlying disease.”

The following cases exemplify how Chinese officials have disguised the full magnitude of the virus’s toll in Shanghai.

The New York Times reported a case of an asthmatic medical staff member who died of a COVID infection. The staff was denied treatment.

A Shanghai businessman said that his father, who had diabetes, died after two days of testing positive for COVID.

The Association Press (AP) also reported an uncounted case of 99-year-old Lu Muying, who died on April 1 in government quarantine.

Although doctors advised her family that COVID-19 worsened her underlying heart problems and high blood pressure, Lu’s case wasn’t counted.

The data from officials is blurry and doesn’t give a full picture of Shanghai’s pandemic situation.

As New York Times reported, when the Omicron variant began circulating in Shanghai in March, several were concerned, citing Hong Kong as an example. Both cities contain large older populations, many of whom are not completely vaccinated. With around 9,000 deaths, Hong Kong’s Covid death rate quickly became the world’s highest.

However, Shanghai, which is more than three times the population of Hong Kong, has only recorded 17 Covid deaths after a month.

Hong Kong never fully locked down. Deaths often lag infections, so the reported tally in Shanghai could rise. Experts, however, say there is another reason for the disparity: the way China counts Covid deaths.

Zhengming Chen, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Oxford,
said that many places, including the United States, Britain and Hong Kong, do not differentiate between people who die from Covid or die with Covid, as long as the coronavirus was a contributing factor. But mainland China generally counts only those who die directly from Covid-related pneumonia.

The AP cited Zhang Zuo-Feng, a Professor at the University of California, that China only labels those who died directly from COVID. Meanwhile, most countries count deaths where COVID is a factor as COVID-related cases.

Professor Jin Dong-Yan at the University of Hong Kong’s medical school said, “If the deaths could be ascribed to underlying disease, they will always report it as such and will not count it as a COVID-related death. That’s their pattern for many years.”

In addition, Shanghai authorities have been modifying other standards.

Three people informed AP that authorities have only considered viral infections “symptomatic” if a patient’s lung scans reveal symptoms of pneumonia. Others are classified as “asymptomatic” even if they test positive and show COVID-19 symptoms.

This classification method not only conflicts with China’s past national guidelines but also marks a sharp change from the directions given in January.

Wu Fan, a member of Shanghai’s epidemic prevention expert group, stated that even minor symptoms would be classified as symptomatic cases in January.

What adds extra confusion for citizens is the overlapping tracking system.

Shanghai residents rely on a mobile health app while the authorities have a separate system to track COVID test results. The data between the system’s conflicts at times.

However, a Chinese health official told the AP that the fluctuating and inconsistent processes allow China’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention an opportunity to determine COVID-related deaths.

Authorities can rule out the coronavirus as the cause of death in cases where no lung scans or positive test results were noted on their apps.

In fax, the National Health Commission stated that there is “no basis to suspect the accuracy of China’s epidemic data and statistics.”

The New York Times said that China’s National Health Commission did not reply to a faxed request for comment on its method of counting Covid deaths.

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