China announces first COVID-19 death in nearly 6 months

BEIJING — China announced its first new death from COVID-19 in nearly six months on Sunday as strict new measures are imposed in Beijing and across the country to guard against further outbreaks.

The 87-year-old Beijing man’s death was the first reported by the National Health Commission since May 26, bringing the total death toll to 5,227. The previous death was reported in Shanghai, which has experienced a sharp increase in cases over the summer.

While China has an overall vaccination rate of over 92% after receiving at least one dose, that number is considerably lower among older people, especially those over 80. The commission did not give details of the vaccination status of those who died.

This vulnerability is seen as one of the reasons China has mostly kept its borders closed and is sticking to its rigid “zero-COVID” policy that seeks to eliminate infections through lockdowns, quarantines, case-finding and mass testing, despite the impact on normal life and the economy and mounting public anger against authorities.

In a partial response, the central city of Zhengzhou said on Sunday it would no longer require a negative COVID-19 test for infants under 3 and other “special groups” seeking health care.

The announcement by the Zhengzhou city government came after the death of a second child was blamed on an overzealous antivirus app. The 4-month-old girl died after suffering from vomiting and diarrhea while quarantined at a hotel in Zhengzhou.

Reports say it took her father 11 hours to get help after health workers refused to provide help and she was eventually sent to a hospital 100 kilometers (60 miles) away ). Netizens expressed their anger at “zero COVID” and demanded that Zhengzhou officials be punished for not helping the public.

This follows an outcry over the death of a 3-year-old boy from carbon monoxide poisoning in the North West. His father blamed Lanzhou city health workers, who he said tried to stop him from taking his son to hospital.

Other cases include a pregnant woman who miscarried after being refused entry to a hospital in the northwest city of Xi’an and forced to sit outside in the cold for hours.

Each of these cases brings promises from the ruling Communist Party – most recently last week – that people in quarantine or who cannot show negative test results would not be barred from getting emergency help.

Yet the party has often found itself unable to rein in the strict and often unauthorized measures imposed by local officials who fear losing their jobs or being prosecuted if outbreaks occur in areas under their jurisdiction.

Nearly three years into the pandemic, as the rest of the world has opened wide and the impact on China’s economy has grown, Beijing has mostly kept its borders closed and discouraged travel even outside China. interior of the country.

In the capital Beijing, residents have been told not to travel between city districts, and scores of restaurants, shops, malls, office buildings and apartment buildings have been closed or sealed off.

China announced 24,215 new cases on Sunday, the vast majority of which are asymptomatic.

ABC News

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