China reports first Covid-19 deaths in more than a year

The country is facing its biggest coronavirus spike since the initial outbreak in Wuhan in late 2019China reports first Covid-19 deaths in more than a year

China reports first Covid-19 deaths in more than a year

A Chinese worker wearing a face shield and a mask to help protect from the coronavirus. © AP / Andy Wong

China reported two new deaths from Covid-19 on Saturday – its first fatalities related to the virus since January 2021 – as the country battles a surge in Omicron cases.

Both deaths occurred in the northeastern province of Jilin, which has been hit the hardest during the current wave, the National Health Commission (NHC) said. It didn’t say how old the deceased patients were or whether they had any underlying diseases.

Omicron is believed to be more contagious, but less severe than the original coronavirus or the Delta variant. However, in some cases it can still be lethal for the unvaccinated or those with diabetes, lung problems and other health complications.

China locks down millions as Covid outbreak grows

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China locks down millions as Covid outbreak grows

The new fatalities bring the overall death toll to 4,638 in China, which implemented a strict “zero-Covid strategy” with swift lockdowns and mass testing since the start of the pandemic in Wuhan in late 2019.

The country that saw fewer than 100 daily cases just three weeks ago has gone to over 1,000 cases per day since then, with Jilin becoming the epicenter of the outbreak.

The province was responsible for the majority of 2,388 domestically transmitted cases on the Chinese mainland reported by the NHC on Friday. A travel ban had been imposed in Jilin, with locals unable to leave without a permit from police.

Earlier this week, Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed that the country would “continue to put people and life at the forefront, stick with scientific accuracy and dynamic-zero, and curb the spread of the epidemic as soon as possible.” However, he called for increased vaccination, rapid testing and drug research, and for coronavirus curbs to become more “targeted.”

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Beijing records Covid-19 statistics only on the mainland, separate from its special administrative region of Hong Kong, which didn’t implement such strict prevention policies.

Earlier this week, Hong Kong, which has a population of 7.5 million, surpassed China in the number of cases and deaths, with one million coronavirus infections and over 5,400 fatalities.


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