WHO seeks more China COVID data, praises US ‘transparency’

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The WHO reiterated Wednesday the need for China to share more data on its explosive COVID outbreak, while praising Washington’s “radical transparency” in its efforts to battle a new subvariant.

The World Health Organization has repeatedly voiced concern that China’s official statistics are not showing the true impact of its current surge in COVID cases.

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“WHO still believes that deaths are heavily underreported from China,” its emergencies director Michael Ryan told reporters.

He blamed Beijing’s narrow definition of what constitutes a COVID death, and also pointed to “the need for doctors in the public health system to be encouraged to report these cases, and not discouraged.”

In contrast, he hailed the cooperation of authorities in the United States, where the new omicron subvariant XBB.1.5 is spreading rapidly.

“There’s been radical transparency on behalf of the United States in terms of engaging with the WHO regarding the data and the impact of that data,” he said.

Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on COVID, said Washington had supplied virtually all the data available so far on XBB.1.5, the most transmissible form of COVID so far.

The subvariant, detected in 38 countries, clearly has a “growth advantage” over other forms of the virus, she told reporters. It is also believed to be better at dodging immunity protections from prior infection or vaccines.

“We don’t yet have data on severity,” she added.

In China, meanwhile, Ryan warned that despite increased collaboration, “we still do not have adequate information to make a full comprehensive risk assessment.”

China abruptly dropped its “zero- COVID” approach last month after three years of enforcing some of the harshest anti-pandemic restrictions in the world. That unleashed a wave of infections that has packed hospitals and overwhelmed crematoriums.

But according to official figures, only 37 COVID-related deaths have been recorded in China since last month out of a population of 1.4 billion.

Read more: Germany discourages non-essential travel to COVID-hit China

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