Chinese state media seek to reassure public over COVID-19


China’s abrupt U-turn on COVID-19 controls – as well as the accuracy of its case and mortality data – have come under increasing scrutiny both at home and overseas.

The surge in cases has raised fresh worries about the health of the economy and in his first public comments since the change in policy, President Xi Jinping called in a New Year’s address for more effort and unity as China enters a “new phase”.

China reported one new COVID-19 death in the mainland for Dec 31, the same as a day earlier, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said on Sunday (Jan 1).

The accumulated official death toll in China now stands at 5,249, far lower than in other large countries. The government has rejected claims that it has deliberately underreported the total number of fatalities.

At the Hankou funeral home on the outskirts of Wuhan, an intermittent stream of mourners and hearse drivers were arriving on Sunday.

Staff at the site’s heavily guarded entrance declined to answer questions about their recent workloads. But funeral homes in other cities in China – including Chengdu and Beijing – said that they were busier than ever since China abruptly ditched its COVID-19 curbs last month.

China’s CDC reported 5,138 official confirmed cases on Saturday, but with mass testing no longer in operation, experts say the actual number of infections is significantly higher.

State media in the city of Guangzhou in southeastern China said on Sunday that daily cases peaked at around 60,000 recently, and now stand at around 19,000.

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Authorities have been trying to reassure the public that they have the situation under control and state news agency Xinhua published an editorial on Sunday saying that the current strategy was “a planned, science-based approach” reflecting the changing nature of the virus.

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