China announces first death from COVID-19 in nearly six months

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BEIJING (AP) — China on Sunday announced its first new death from COVID-19 in nearly half a year as strict new measures are imposed in Beijing. and across the country to guard against new outbreaks.

The death of the 87-year-old Beijing man was the first reported by the National Health Commission since May 26, bringing the total death toll to 5,227. The previous death was reported in Shanghai, which saw a large increase in cases over the summer.

While China has an overall vaccination rate of more than 92% after receiving at least one dose, that number is considerably lower among the elderly, particularly those over 80. The commission did not give details about the vaccination status of the deceased.

That vulnerability is seen as one of the reasons China has kept its borders mostly closed and stuck to its rigid “zero-COVID” policy. which seeks to stamp out infections through lockdowns, quarantines, case tracing and mass testing, despite the impact on normal life and the economy and growing public anger towards the authorities.

In a partial response, the central city of Zhengzhou said on Sunday that it will no longer require a negative COVID-19 test of babies under 3 and other “special groups” seeking medical attention.

The announcement by the Zhengzhou city government came after the death of a second child was blamed on an overzealous antivirus app.. The 4-month-old girl died after suffering from vomiting and diarrhea while in quarantine at a hotel in Zhengzhou.

Reports say it took her father 11 hours to get help after health workers refused to provide assistance, eventually sending her to a hospital 100 kilometers (60 miles) away. Internet users expressed anger over “zero COVID” and demanded that officials in Zhengzhou be punished for failing to help the public.

That follows an earlier protest over the death of a 3-year-old boy. of carbon monoxide poisoning in the Northwest. His father blamed health workers in the city of Lanzhou, who he said tried to stop her from taking his son to the hospital.

Other cases include a pregnant woman who miscarried after being denied entry to a hospital. in the northwestern city of Xi’an and forced to sit in the open air for hours.

Each of these cases brings promises from the ruling Communist Party, most recently last week, that people quarantined or unable to show negative test results will not be barred from receiving emergency aid.

However, the party has often found itself unable to control strict and often unauthorized measures imposed by local officials who fear losing their jobs or facing prosecution if outbreaks occur in areas under their jurisdiction.

Nearly three years into the pandemic, while the rest of the world has largely opened up and the impact on the Chinese economy is mounting.Beijing has mostly kept its borders closed and discouraged travel even within the country.

In the capital Beijing, residents have been told not to travel between city districts, and a large number of restaurants, shops, malls, office buildings and apartment blocks have been closed or isolated.

China announced 24,215 new cases on Sunday, the vast majority of them asymptomatic.

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