March 19 (Bloomberg) – China reported its first Covid-19 deaths since January 2021 as the omicron variant continued to spread across the world’s most populous nation. The two deaths were both reported in Jilin on Friday, the National Health Commission said in a statement.
Although there have been repeated flareups and outbreaks in China despite the country’s tight curbs — first against the delta variant, then omicron — few of those infected had been seriously sick since mid-2021. Many who developed severe symptoms survived, even patients above the age of 60 and those with other underlying diseases.
China has reported fewer than 5,000 deaths throughout the entire pandemic, with most occurring when the virus first emerged from Wuhan in early 2020. Stringent curbs and mass testing have helped officials stymie Covid’s spread and identify cases early, while many were sent to designated hospitals for treatment regardless of the severity of their illness.
Nearly 90% of China’s 1.4 billion people fully vaccinated and more a third having received booster shots, and omicron appears increasingly as asymptomatic infections.
Still, officials and health experts have warned about inevitable deaths even from a less virulent variant as widespread infections keep hospitals and medical staff stretched.