It was January 11, 2020, China announced its first death from Covid-19. Three years later, the country faces an unprecedented Omicron wave. The death toll remains very low compared to other countries, 5,354 deaths officially. What should we think of these numbers? Even if the crematoriums have had a resurgence of activity this winter, officially, the Covid continues to cause very few deaths in China.

He doesn’t even do it at all. Viral pneumonia does not kill in China, simply because the authorities have stopped publishing their daily reports on the epidemic. We are in the dark on the most complete statistical question. Many Chinese megacities have said they have passed the peak of infections, but critically ill positive patients continue to flow into hospital respiratory and intensive care wards and crematoriums are overcrowded.

So much so that some funeral directors have resorted to temporary work. One of these temporary workers in Shanghai, who worked for two extra weeks in one of the largest funeral parlors in the city, testifies: “It is actually full! There is no room left ! In the funeral home where I worked, we can preserve up to 4,000 bodies. But the burning rate does not follow. Sometimes 700 to 800 corpses arrive in a single day. However, only 50 to 60 bodies can be cremated. There are ten ovens in total. I was responsible for one of them. A furnace can only burn 5-6 corpses per day. You must therefore be patient and sometimes wait 15 days before a place becomes available.

The concern now applies to the countryside, with the great migration of the Lunar New Year holidays. State media say rural health systems and drug supplies have been strengthened. According to the Xinhua News Agency, 23,000 county-level medical institutions, 35,000 township hospitals and 599,000 village clinics form “a collaborative and efficient health protection system, so that rural patients can benefit from medical services. at several levels”.

That hasn’t stopped some villages from being overwhelmed by the Covid tide, reports Bloomberg. A situation that is all the more difficult to live with for families faced with Covid deaths, which have become taboo. Not only has the National Health Commission reclassified the disease, but it has also redefined the criteria for death from the consequences of Covid. From now on, only deaths linked to respiratory failure can be counted. What makes that we currently have an epidemic of heart attacks or “ordinary pneumonia”.

Mr. Xu lost his 93-year-old grandmother, she died in early December of complications from her previous illnesses, just after catching Covid. He says: “Of course you can’t say it’s a Covid death. Covid or viral pneumonia, it’s impossible! All the hospitals refuse! They don’t give you a death certificate if you say that. It is better to avoid, knowing that today it is difficult to find a place to keep the dead. We were able to find a place in the basement of a hospital, because the death took place at the beginning of December. After that, it would have been difficult to find a place.

The Covid is therefore not specified in death certificates, so deaths in official statistics should remain undervalued. There are still relatives of the disappeared who talk about these Covid deaths on social networks and in particular personalities from the academic world, sport, cinema who say how much the epidemic has cost them.

Emergency Room Overcrowding

“One of my colleagues only stayed half a day, confides an interim funeral director. He couldn’t stand the smell. It’s just the smell of rotting bodies. The corpses stay too long in the cold room, and they are decomposing. The smell is hard to bear. You have probably seen the images of these deceased people lying on the ground in hospitals. There’s no more room there either. At the peak of the epidemic, there were 60 to 70 deaths per day in some hospitals with bodies on the floor.

Today the WHO says that Europe should not worry about the epidemic in China, but two weeks ago the World Health Organization spoke of a lack of transparency on the part of Chinese authorities.

Beijing replied that the assessment would be made once the wave passed – it is more convenient. Regarding sequencing, according to the health authorities, three hospitals in each region and province are responsible for taking readings, testing their positive patients to build the database, while massive screenings, as we were used to here, have been also deleted.

You have to see that in China, if we go back a month or two, entire cities were tested for Covid via almost daily PCRs, explains Been Cowling, epidemiologist at the school of health of the public University of Hong Kong. . But today, the screenings have disappeared. Even in the hospital, people with severe respiratory symptoms are mostly untested. So there is not much information about the number of infections. But I don’t think it’s a transparency issue. I don’t think they withhold information. They just don’t test anymore. It’s a shame because China has the capabilities to do it.

Too bad indeed, because according to mathematical models based in particular on the rapidity of contamination, this first epidemic wave in China, which followed the abandonment of the zero-Covid policy last month, could represent between 300,000 and 1.6 million. dead in the country.

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