The World Health Organization has warned that China is under-representing the true impact of Covid in the country – in particular deaths.
The removal of most restrictions last month has led to a surge in cases
But China has stopped publishing daily cases data, and has announced only 22 Covid deaths since December, using its oown strict criteria.
“We believe that definition [of a Covid death] is too narrow,” WHO Emergencies Director Dr Michael Ryan said.
Dr Ryan said China’s figures “under-represent the true impact of the disease in terms of hospital admissions, in terms of ICU admissions, and particularly in terms of deaths”.
He added that China had increased its engagement with the WHO in recent weeks, and said he looked forward to receiving “more comprehensive data.”
But he also suggested individual health workers could report their own data and experiences.
“We do not discourage doctors and nurses reporting these deaths and these cases,” Dr Ryan said. “We have an open approach to be able to record the actual impact of disease in society.”
The UK science data company Airfinity estimates more than two million Covid cases a day in China, and 14,700 deaths.
Since China abandoned key parts of its “zero-Covid” strategy almost a month ago, there have been reports of hospitals and crematoriums being overwhelmed.
More than a dozen nations have introduced travel restrictions on travellers from China. Beijing has criticised these as politically motivated and threatened to retaliate.
No new Covid variants have been detected in China, despite the surge in cases. However, the WHO has warned this could be due to a decrease in testing.
The Chinese authorities have announced they are sending medical supplies to rural hospitals before an expected wave of coronavirus infections in the countryside – where vaccination rates are patchy.