China reports first Covid-19 death since May as outbreak continues

It was the first documented death from Covid-19 since May 26, when officials in Shanghai reported one fatality. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING - China reported its first Covid-19 death in almost six months on Sunday as the virus outbreak in the country continues unabated. 

An 87-year-old man in Beijing died on Saturday after his condition worsened, the official Beijing Daily reported.

He first displayed Covid-19 symptoms on Nov 11 and was confirmed infected two days later, according to the report.

It was the first documented death from Covid-19 since May 26, when officials in Shanghai reported one fatality.

China’s persistent outbreak increases the likelihood of additional deaths, as it can take several days or weeks before someone who has contracted Covid-19 to turn seriously ill. The country reported a total of 23,238 new infections for Saturday, 180 fewer than Friday.

Authorities in the southern hub of Guangzhou once again extended some curbs for the downtown district of Haizhu, until Nov 22, after the city reported 8,483 cases for Saturday.

The resumption of deaths attributed to Covid-19 could test the tolerance of Chinese authorities, who earlier in November narrowed some curbs in a move many took as a sign of a shift away from its strict zero tolerance policy.

After being largely isolated from the rest of the world for the past three years, China shortened quarantine times for inbound travellers and close contacts, and ended a policy that suspended international flights tied to too many infected passengers. 

Low vaccination rates among China’s elderly and vulnerable populations remain one of the biggest hurdles for the country’s reopening. Only 66 per cent of those aged 80 and above are fully vaccinated and 40 per cent have taken a booster. That compares with a vaccination rate of more than 90 per cent for seniors in the United States. 

The People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s flagship newspaper, said on Friday in its fourth commentary since the changes were announced that China is improving virus control measures and is not relaxing or “lying flat”.

China’s top health authorities said they are preparing for future infections by building more hospitals to treat Covid-19 patients and ensuring that intensive care units that care for the most vulnerable account for 10 per cent of all beds. BLOOMBERG

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