Senior WHO Official Says China Is ‘Under-Representing’ COVID-19 Deaths

By Mimi Nguyen Ly
Mimi Nguyen Ly
Mimi Nguyen Ly
Mimi Nguyen Ly is a senior reporter for the Epoch Times. She covers U.S. news and world news. Contact her at
January 5, 2023Updated: January 11, 2023

A senior World Health Organization (WHO) official says the Chinese regime has been under-reporting deaths and hospitalizations from COVID-19 in the country.

“We believe that the current numbers being published from China under-represent the true impact of the disease in terms of hospital admissions, in terms of ICU admissions, particularly in terms of death,” Mike Ryan, WHO emergencies director, told reporters at a Jan. 4 media briefing.

“And we would like to see more data on a more geographic basis across China.”

In late December 2022, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) narrowed its definition for classifying deaths as attributable to COVID-19 by counting only those involving pneumonia or respiratory failure sparked by COVID-19, surprising some world health experts.

The CCP has been reporting daily COVID-19 deaths in single-digit figures.

“We still do not have complete data,” Ryan said.

China COVID-19
Patients on stretchers at Tongren hospital in Shanghai on Jan. 3, 2023. (Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images)

Ryan said the WHO deems the Chinese regime’s definition of deaths attributable to COVID-19 as “very narrow.” He urged for a broader definition to get a fuller picture of the impact of COVID-19 in China.

The WHO’s guidance (pdf) stipulates that a death should be attributed to COVID-19 if it results from a “clinically compatible illness, in a probable or confirmed COVID-19 case, unless there is a clear alternative cause of death that cannot be related to COVID disease (e.g. trauma).”

The guidance also states that deaths from COVID-19 “may not be attributed to another disease,” such as cancer, and should be counted as a COVID-19 death, even if there’s a suspicion that a preexisting medical condition may have triggered a severe course of COVID-19.

UK Firm Estimates Death Toll in China Far Higher

In a drastically different picture to that provided by the CCP, UK-based health data firm Airfinity on Dec. 29, 2022, estimated that about 9,000 people died from COVID-19 in China each day in December 2022 and that the deaths may peak at 25,000 a day in January.

Leaked minutes from a meeting of China’s top health body that were confirmed by multiple news outlets suggested that as many as 248 million people became infected within the first 20 days of December 2022, and that the virus has infected more than half of the residents in Beijing and Sichuan Province.

Despite news suggesting COVID-19 cases and related deaths have increased in China, the CCP announced in late December 2022 that it will reopen its borders on Jan. 8.

Earlier in December 2022, the CCP abruptly reversed its draconian zero-COVID policy, which had been in effect for nearly three years, amid widespread protests against the communist regime.

Following the sudden shift in policy, COVID-19 cases have been increasing throughout the country of 1.4 billion people.

Chinese Scientists Shared Data Claiming No New Variant: WHO

On Jan. 3, the WHO’s Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution and China’s top scientists held a closed meeting. Scientists from the Chinese Center for Disease Control presented data that showed that the dominant strains currently circulating are the Omicron subvariants BA.5.2 and BF.7, which together account for 97.5 percent of all local infections, the WHO stated.

“No new variant or mutation of known significance is noted in the publicly available sequence data,” the WHO advisory group noted of the data they received from the Chinese scientists.

The WHO has since asked the Chinese scientists to present detailed data on viral sequencing to get a better picture of hospitalizations, deaths, and vaccinations.

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