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China stops publishing COVID-19 data amid rise in infections

December 25, 2022

China has reported zero COVID-19 deaths for the last four days. A British based health data firm estimated that there are nearly 5,000 deaths a day in China from COVID-19.

A patient walks into a fever clinic in central Beijing.
China will no longer publish daily data of COVID-19 infectionsImage: Ichiro Ohara/AP/picture alliance

China will no longer publish daily figures of COVID-19 cases or deaths, the country's National Health Commission (NHC) said Sunday.

The NHC did not give any explanation for changing a policy which had begun in 2020.

"Relevant COVID-19 information will be published by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention for reference and research," the commission said in a statement.

It did not provide any details on how frequently this data would be published. 

In the beginning of December after massive pushback and protests,, the Chinese government relaxed its strict zero-COVID policy. 

China eases zero-COVID measures

Since the restrictions were lifted, Beijing reported only six COVID-19 deaths.

Last week, a British based health data firm called Airfinity estimated that China is witnessing more than a million infections and nearly 5,000 deaths a day.

Despite the steep surge in infections, the NHC reported zero COVID-19 deaths in China for the last four consecutive days.

Impossible to track COVID-19 cases

COVID-19 cases in China have become impossible to track  ever since the end of testing mandates.

In late November, when cases suddenly rose, the NHC stopped reporting asymptomatic infections, making it harder to quantify the outbreak.

Chinese authorities have also narrowed the medical definition of a COVID death -- counting only those deaths caused from COVID-19 related pneumonia or respiratory failure.

Experts believe that this was done to suppress the number of fatalities attributable to the virus. Beijing has been routinely accused of downplaying the gravity of the COVID-19 situation in the country.

China's official COVID-19 numbers 'absurdly misleading'

However, in a rare acknowledgement this week, a senior health official in the eastern city of Qingdao told the media that half million people are being infected daily.

China's health care system under enormous strain

Cities across China have reported a shortage of medicine and overflowing hospital wards.

The country's health care system is heavily strained with medical staff being asked to work even while sick. According to the state media, in rural communities, retired medical workers are being called in to help grass-roots efforts.

Crematorium workers interviewed by AFP reported an unusually high influx of bodies.

COVID-19: China's health system at its limits

'Biggest fake statistics manufacturing office'

People in China have greeted the NHC's latest move to halt data, with cynicism.

 "Finally, they are waking up and realizing they can't fool people anymore," wrote one user on the social networking site Weibo.

Another user said that "This was the best and biggest fake statistics manufacturing office in the country."

The World Health Organization (WHO) has not received any data from China since Beijing eased its restriction in early December.

ns/ar (AFP, Reuters)