Mar 19, 2022 - World

China reports first COVID deaths in over a year

COVID testing in Beijing
A medical worker tests a man at a temporary COVID-19 testing site on March 18 in Beijing. Photo: Wang Weiwei/VCG via Getty Images

Facing an Omicron-fueled outbreak, China reported its first two coronavirus deaths since January 2021, according to the Associated Press.

Why it matters: The deaths of two elderly patients in the Jilin province bring the country’s official death toll since the start of the pandemic to 4,638. They come as the province, where leaders have imposed a travel ban, is wrestling with community transmission driven by the highly contagious variant.

By the numbers: China has logged more than 29,000 COVID-19 cases this month. It’s the worst surge the country has seen since 2019.

  • The uptick has occurred even as the government has maintained its strict policy of mass testing and lockdowns dating to the beginning of the pandemic.
  • As a result, outbreaks have been dealt with swiftly, limiting the number of deaths that other countries have logged as they’ve ditched masking requirements and loosened public health requirements for social distancing.
  • Hong Kong, which tracks its case and death data separately, recorded 16,583 new cases Saturday and surpassed the 1 million case mark on Friday. Its deaths have already outpaced China’s.

What they’re saying: Chinese leader Xi Jinping acknowledged the burden of the country’s approach this week, saying it should seek “maximum effect” with “minimum cost” in controlling the virus.

Go deeper: "China's "zero COVID" challenge is getting tougher."

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