With as much as a third of China currently under lockdowns, there’s no doubt that they country is committed to the zero COVID policy. But as the NY Times points out today, there’s reason to think the numbers flowing out of China are suspiciously low.

By the numbers, Shanghai has been an exemplar of how to save lives during a pandemic. Despite the city’s more than 400,000 Covid-19 infections, just 17 people have died, according to officials, statistics they have touted as proof that their strategy of strict lockdowns and mass quarantines works.

But those numbers may not give a complete picture of the outbreak’s toll. China typically classifies Covid-related deaths more narrowly than many other countries, labeling some chronically ill patients who die while infected as victims of those other conditions…

…even as Covid has swept through hospitals for older residents, none of the patients who died appear to have been registered as Covid fatalities. (Workers said they did not know the exact causes of death.) A Shanghai businessman said his 77-year-old father, who had diabetes, died two days after testing positive; he was not logged as a Covid death either.

“If you apply international criteria,” Professor Chen said, “the number of deaths would be somewhat high.”

The story goes on to argue that the focus on keeping the numbers low may be backfiring a bit because the estimated 375 million people under lockdown, including the 25 million in Shangai wonder why it’s necessary for the entire city to be miserable, with some on the verge of starvation, because of 17 deaths. The push for zero COVID would actually make a lot more sense if the death toll was higher. In fact, the death toll from the push for zero COVID is likely a lot higher than 17 deaths. One doctor estimated as many as 1,000 diabetic patients in Shanghai could die during the lockdown. But of course, those numbers don’t get counted as part of the COVID death toll.

People are literally posting handmade signs in Shanghai saying that people are dying because of the lockdowns, but the signs are quickly pulled down.

Recently, state media “journalist” Hu Xijin admitted that Shanghai’s director of the Information Center of the Health Commission had killed himself. His wife had also killed herself, apparently both suicides were the result of the intense pressure to achieve zero COVID. Hu Xijin reports the deaths did happen but immediately pivots to the claim that there’s nothing else to be done. Zero COVID is the only option:

Qian Wenxiong is dead, and his wife is well. However, the death of Qian Wenxiong is enough to make people sad. This tragedy obviously exacerbated the impression that the epidemic prevention in Shanghai has overwhelmed some grassroots personnel.

In the past two days, all kinds of disturbing information and videos have been posted on the Internet in Shanghai. Their common direction is the strong dissatisfaction with the secondary tragedy and cost of fighting the epidemic, as well as the anxiety caused by the long-term lockdown…

At the same time, I would like to say that everyone must remain calm at this time. Shanghai must continue to make zero clearing as a firm goal, and the reason is clear: Shanghai does not clear zero, even if Shanghai people accept it, will Jiangsu accept it? Does Zhejiang accept it? Will the rest of the country accept it? Outside of Shanghai, who is willing to deal with people from Shanghai with such a severe epidemic? In that case, Shanghai will really become an isolated island, or it will soon “pull the whole country into the water”. Some people say, let the whole country let go together! But that’s unacceptable, at least not a realistic path at this point in time today…

Psychological counseling is very important, and I think the public across the country should get involved and help some citizens in Shanghai carry out such counseling to increase their patience and confidence.

If you don’t like the lockdowns, get counseling. Of course since no one can leave their apartment except for COVID tests and food deliveries any counseling would take place by phone or video. No doubt the government will be keeping tabs on anyone who actually follows this advice, looking for signs of troublemakers who complain too much. There’s just no way out of this trap.

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