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China to publish Covid data only once a month from January

Hindustan Times logo Hindustan Times 27-12-2022 Sutirtho Patranobis

Beijing: China is set to publish data on Covid-19 cases only once a month after the disease is downgraded to Category B, or less stringent, virus management, the government announced on Tuesday, a move that’s likely to deepen confusion and distrust among citizens about how quickly the virus is spreading in the country or how many it’s fatally infecting.

China’s Covid-19 management that includes prevention and treatment modules and has been in place since early 2020 will be downgraded to Category B from the current top-level Category A, the national health commission (NHC) said in a late night announcement on Monday.

“Starting from January 8, China will downgrade management of the disease (Covid-19) from Class A to Class B under the country’s law on the prevention and treatment of infectious disease and remove it from quarantinable infectious disease management in a major shift of its epidemic response policies,” official news agency, Xinhua, said in a report on Tuesday.

The NHC had been publishing relevant Covid data since January, 2020, but only last Sunday, it stopped releasing the tally of Covid cases, handing over the responsibility of sharing numbers to the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC will announce the number of existing hospitalised cases, the number of existing severe cases, including critical diseases and cumulative deaths, and no longer distinguish between local cases and imported cases, Yin Wenwu, chief physician CDC’s communication department said on Tuesday.

“The number of close contacts will no longer be reported,” Yin said, according to the state-run China Daily newspaper.

“The centre will adjust the frequency of its Covid-19 reports based on epidemic situation, and eventually the reports will be made once a month, which is standard practice for category B diseases,” he added.

According to Chang Jile from the National Administration of Disease Prevention and Control, China has two category A infectious diseases, 27 category B diseases and 11 category C diseases.

Yin, according to China Daily, said the CDC will carry out online surveys to collect more information from the community.

“The reporting of Covid-19 cases will be based on the number of hospitalised patients, the positive results of nucleic acid tests and antigen tests that are reported, and the monitoring of key groups, key venues and the mutation of variants,” he said.

The parametres mentioned by Yin will not be enough to quantify the number of infections in China given that a large number of patients are self-testing and not reporting the result to authorities, and many are not going to hospitals despite having symptoms.

However, it’s likely that the Chinese government does have a good idea about the actual extent of the outbreak.

As per the NHC meeting minutes leaked last week -- reported by Bloomberg and the Financial Times -- about 248 million people around China were infected in the first three weeks of the month, including half of the population in Beijing and Sichuan province.

The provincial government of the eastern Zhejiang province said last week that it was logging a million Covid-19 cases daily, and the number would double during the peak.

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