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WHO recommends that China monitor excess COVID-19 mortality


A medical worker checks the IV drip treatment of a patient lying on a bed in the emergency department of a hospital, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Shanghai, China, January 5, 2023. REUTERS/Staff/File Photo

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday it recommended that China monitor excess mortality from COVID-19 to gain a fuller picture of the impact of the surge in cases there.

China said on Saturday that nearly 60,000 people with COVID-19 had died in hospital since it abandoned its zero-COVID policy last month, a big jump from the figures it reported prior to facing international criticism over its COVID-19 data.

“WHO recommends the monitoring of excess mortality, which provides us with a more comprehensive understanding of the impact of COVID-19,” the U.N. agency told Reuters in a statement when asked about China.

“This is especially important during periods of surges when the health system is severely constrained.”

WHO added that there was no fixed time for another meeting with Chinese officials after WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke with Ma Xiaowei, director of China’s National Health Commission, at the weekend, but that it would continue working with China to provide advice and support.

After criticising Beijing for not being forthright about the scale of the outbreak, WHO said on Saturday that Chinese authorities had provided it with information on hospital deaths and outpatient care that allowed for a better understanding of the situation.

Lawrence Gostin, a professor at Georgetown Law in Washington, D.C., who closely follows WHO, said China’s decision to reveal more data had been down to “WHO prodding”.

“Getting more accurate death tolls is refreshing,” he said. “But it would be even more important to get full GSD (genetic sequence data) of circulating virus in China. That’s the really big global concern.”