Surprisingly low Shanghai COVID deaths spur questions

Taipei, Taiwan (AP) — Lu Muying died on the phone with her family on April 1 at a government quarantine facility in Shanghai when a doctor tried to revive her. She tested positive for COVID-19 in late March and was transferred there in line with the government’s policy of centrally isolating all coronavirus cases.

However, a 99-year-old woman who was ashamed of her 100th birthday for only two weeks was not considered a COVID-19 death by official Shanghai statistics. In fact, in cities with more than 25 million people, outbreaks lasted nearly two months, and despite the infection of hundreds of thousands in the world’s third largest city, only 25 people were reported dead from the coronavirus. Is not …

Lou’s death highlights how the true extent of virus damage in Shanghai has been hidden by Chinese authorities. Doctors told Lu’s relatives that she died because COVID-19 exacerbated her underlying heart disease and high blood pressure, yet she wasn’t counted yet.

Interviews with families of patients who tested positive, publicly announced telephone calls with government health authorities, and Internet archives edited by families of the dead all count how the city counts its cases and deaths. It raises the question of whether or not it is almost certainly marked as underestimated.

The result is an unclear portrait of the outbreak, which has a significant impact on both the people of Shanghai and the rest of the world, given its position as a hub for Shanghai’s economy, manufacturing and shipping.

The Associated Press survey of deaths is by a method by which Chinese health authorities aggregate COVID-19 statistics and apply far narrower, less transparent, and sometimes inconsistent criteria than in other parts of the world. , Reveals how the numbers are cloudy.

In most countries, including the United States, guidelines stipulate that deaths caused by or caused by COVID-19 are counted as COVID-related deaths.

However, in China, health authorities only count those who died directly from COVID-19. However, except for those who have been exacerbated by the virus, such as Lu, says epidemiologist Zhang Zuo-Feng at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“When death can be due to an underlying illness, they always report it that way and don’t count it as COVID-related death. That’s their pattern for many years,” said a college virologist. One Jin Dong Yang said the medical school in Hong Kong.

That narrow standard means that the death toll of COVID-19 in China is always significantly lower than the death toll in many other countries.

Jin and Chan said this was a Chinese practice since the beginning of the pandemic and was not evidence of a deliberate attempt to underreport the number of deaths.

However, Shanghai authorities have violated China’s own regulations, masked the true damage of the virus, and quietly changed other standards behind the scenes.

During this outbreak, Shanghai health officials considered only cases of the virus that showed evidence of pneumonia on lung scans as “symptomatic,” three people, including Chinese public health officials, AP. Told to. All other patients are positive on the test and are considered “asymptomatic” even if they have other typical COVID-19 symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, and headache.

This method of classifying asymptomatic cases is China’s past national guidelines. It’s also a sharp change from January, when Wu Fang, a member of Shanghai’s Epidemic Prevention Expert Group, said it was also a minor symptom such as fatigue and sore throat. Classified “strictly” as a symptomatic case..

Further confusing, the city has a duplicate system to track if someone is infected with the virus. City residents primarily rely on what is called HealthCloud, a mobile application that allows them to see the results of the COVID-19 test. However, the Shanghai health authorities have a separate system for tracking COVID-19 test results and have the sole authority to identify cases. From time to time, there are conflicts of data between systems.

In fact, due to these changing and inconsistent processes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in China has given “moving room” to determine COVID-related deaths, and Chinese health officials have attributed coronavirus to death. He said it made it possible to exclude. No lung scans or positive test results are recorded in the app. Stakeholders discussed delicate topics, subject to anonymity.

In response to a question about Shanghai’s COVID-19 figures, China’s premier medical institution, the National Health Commission, said in a fax, “There is no reason to doubt the accuracy of China’s epidemic data and statistics.” The Shanghai Municipal Government did not respond to requests for comment by fax.

Statements from authorities provide little comfort to relatives of the dead. Chinese internet users suspected official numbers and built a virtual archive of deaths that occurred after the blockade in Shanghai, based on direct information posted online. They have recorded 170 deaths so far.

Chinese media reports on the unrecorded death of COVID-19 were swiftly censored, and many criticisms of Shanghai’s strict measures were wiped out online. Instead, state media continues to support China’s Zero Corona approach as evidence of the success of China’s political system, especially with the world’s official death toll exceeding 6.2 million.

Earlier this month, suspicions about the data exploded when Shanghai residents uploaded a recording of a telephone conversation with a CDC officer. In his father’s mobile application, it appeared as negative.

“Did you tell us not to look at Health Cloud?” Said official Zhu Weiping, referring to the app: “The only positive case is that we notified people.”

Others skeptical of the data include relatives of Zong Shan, an 86-year-old former Russian translator who died on March 29. The day of her death.

“My relatives, like most other people in Shanghai who were notified as positive, reported all negative results,” one of Zong’s relatives said in the Health Cloud app, fearing retaliation. I couldn’t name it.

Dzong was taken to a government quarantine facility from Tokai Geriatric Hospital He died there that night on March 29th. Her family was told by hospital staff that she would be transferred after she tested positive for COVID-19. However, they did not consider the virus to be the greatest threat to her health — rather, it was a lack of care in her quarantine facility. Dzong needed to be given a liquid and could not be eaten without assistance.

According to relatives, she was in a stable condition before the transfer. When her family asked for her cause of death, the doctor did not give a definite answer.

“They gave me a very vague answer. For some reason, they said it was a stroke, and then they said it was just a hypothesis,” the relatives said. rice field. “But at some point, they were very clear, they said it had nothing to do with COVID. Her lungs were clear.”

Lou, who was also transferred from Tokai Hospital, celebrated his 100th anniversary on April 16th. Her relatives ordered a cake and had permission to host a small celebration on Thursday. However, when she tested positive, her family admitted that she had lived longer and made mental preparations for her death.

However, according to relatives, strangely, the night before she died, the doctor called her family specially to inform her that Lu had tested negative for COVID-19. In the end, her doctor said she died because the virus exacerbated her underlying illness, her relatives spoke on anonymous terms to discuss her problem.

In addition, the family knew a neighbor who was another patient in the same hospital. The patient died the day after being transferred to a quarantine facility on March 25 and was not counted.

Hong Kong virologist Jin pointed out the potential political benefits of the low death toll from Shanghai’s official COVID-19.

“They may argue that this is their achievement and this is their victory,” Jin said.


Kang reported from Beijing. Olivia Zhang, Associated Press video producer, contributed from Beijing.