WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus appeals for detailed information as China battles a surge of COVID cases.
China could be struggling to keep a tally of COVID-19 infections as the country experiences a big spike in cases, a senior World Health Organization official has said, amid concerns about a lack of data from the country.
Official figures from China have become an unreliable guide as less testing is being done across the country following the recent easing of the strict “zero-COVID” policy.
“In China, what’s been reported is relatively low numbers of cases in ICUs, but anecdotally ICUs are filling up,” WHO’s emergencies director Mike Ryan said on Wednesday.
“I wouldn’t like to say that China is actively not telling us what’s going on. I think they’re behind the curve.”
WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also said he was “very concerned” about the situation in China.
“WHO is very concerned over the evolving situation in China,” Tedros told a weekly news conference, appealing for detailed information on disease severity, hospital admissions and intensive care requirements.
Vaccines from Germany
The WHO said it was ready to work with China to improve the way the country collects data around critical factors such as hospitalisation and death.
China uses a narrow definition of COVID deaths and reported no new fatalities for Tuesday, even crossing one off of its overall tally since the pandemic began, now at 5,241 – a fraction of the tolls of many much less populous countries.
The National Health Commission said only deaths caused by pneumonia and respiratory failure in patients who had the virus are classified as COVID deaths.
Ryan noted that there had been a surge in vaccination rates in the country over the last weeks, adding that it remains to be seen whether enough vaccination can be done in the coming weeks to stave off the effect of an Omicron wave.
The WHO would encourage work to import vaccines, but also to find arrangements where vaccines can be produced in as many places as possible, Ryan said.
China has nine domestically developed COVID-19 vaccines approved for use, more than any other country, but they have not been updated to target the highly infectious Omicron variant.
Germany has sent its first batch of BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to China to be administered initially to German expatriates, government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said, the first foreign coronavirus vaccine to be delivered to the country.
“The Chinese government informed Germany today that for the time being German citizens in China may be given the BioNTech vaccines,” he said, adding that “around 20,000 Germans would benefit” from the shipment.
He said that Germany was negotiating to win access for “other so-called expatriates” from other countries.
“In return, Chinese citizens in Europe, in Germany, may receive the Chinese vaccine Sinovac, if they so choose,” Hebestreit said.
It was not immediately clear whether other shipments would follow from Berlin.