Shanghai officials have confirmed the first official deaths from Covid since weeks of protests. The deceased were killed during a violent protest, and it is still unclear whether their death was due to disease or violence.
Three elderly persons aged 89 to 91 died of Covid on Sunday after their health worsened in hospital, according to a statement released by the Shanghai Municipal Health Commission on Monday.
According to authorities, all three were unvaccinated and had underlying medical issues such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
According to the health commission, the city recorded 2,417 symptomatic cases and 19,831 asymptomatic infections on Monday, a modest decrease from the previous day.
Despite the large number of cases, the mortality toll looks to be low: more than 370,000 individuals in Shanghai have been infected since March 1, and no one has died from Covid as of Sunday, according to the official tally.
As of January this year, Hong Kong, the region’s other financial powerhouse, has reported approximately 9,000 Covid fatalities out of 1.18 million overall cases.
The high mortality toll in Hong Kong has been related to the city’s high number of unvaccinated elderly, according to experts. Only 48% of those aged 70 and over had got two treatments as of early March. At the beginning of this year, just 25% of citizens aged 80 and above had been vaccinated.
Some specialists outside of mainland China have expressed concern over Shanghai’s low official death toll, particularly considering that vaccination coverage among the elderly in Shanghai is not much higher than in Hong Kong.
Shanghai authorities said on Monday that 62 percent of the city’s citizens over the age of 60 had been properly vaccinated, with 38 percent receiving a booster dose. According to the Communist Party publication the Adults’s Daily, the number of properly vaccinated people over the age of 80 was considerably lower, at just 15%.
Shanghai’s low death toll, according to Jin Dongyan, a virologist at the University of Hong Kong, is largely due to how Covid fatalities are tallied in mainland China.
“The methodologies utilized to compute fatalities in Hong Kong and the mainland are fundamentally different. Over 90% of Covid fatalities recorded in Hong Kong will be excluded from the study “”It’s inland,” he said.
In Hong Kong, a person is considered to have died of Covid if the coronavirus was proved to have been infected fewer than 28 days before to death, even if they died of suicide or traffic accidents, according to Jin.
“On the mainland, if the dead had underlying illnesses, they would more likely be classified as having died of other conditions rather than Covid,” Jin said.
The number of officially recognized serious cases in Shanghai is likewise low. Only 16 serious cases were being treated in hospitals as of Saturday, according to Wu Jinglei, head of the Shanghai health commission. “One of them has been completely vaccinated against Covid-19, while the others have not,” he stated.
The significant number of asymptomatic and moderate infections in China’s Omicron epidemic has been observed by health experts. Because the Omicron version is less virulent, people are vaccinated, and active testing has found many cases early, during the incubation period, said Wang Guiqiang, an infectious disease doctor in Beijing, during a government press conference on April 6. However, Wang warned that Omicron is still risky for the elderly, particularly those who haven’t had their vaccinations completed.
This is just the second occasion this year that mainland China has reported a Covid fatality. Last month, two people died in the northeastern province of Jilin, the first in more than a year. Only two Covid fatalities were recorded in mainland China in 2021, both in January.
Chinese authorities and state media have ascribed China’s low death toll to the country’s ostensibly successful zero-Covid approach, often comparing it with the hundreds of thousands of fatalities documented in Western nations.
However, the low official death toll is gradually prompting many Shanghai residents to wonder if the harsh measures that have upended the lives of millions of people are warranted.
The alleged fatalities come as the 25-million-strong city continues to be engulfed in a torturous lockdown that has brought the bright, bustling economic center to a standstill.
Residents have been confined to their houses for three weeks and counting, with many citing food shortages, a lack of medical access, horrible conditions in temporary quarantine camps, and harsh measures such as separating diseased children from their parents as reasons for their confinement.
Users on China’s severely restricted social media have come up with inventive methods to convey their increasing dissatisfaction with the country’s long-term censorship, such as posting under apparently insignificant hashtags that carry veiled criticism or satire. However, after gaining extensive notice, such hashtags are often restricted as well.
The opening phrase from China’s national song was the latest banned hashtag on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like site, on Sunday: “Raise your hands! Those who refuse to serve as slaves!”
Simone McCarthy and CNN’s Beijing Bureau contributed additional reporting.