China Reports First Covid Deaths since Easing Its Strict Pandemic Restrictions

Chinese officials on Monday confirmed the country’s first Covid-related deaths since the government began exiting its strict zero-Covid policy earlier this month, adding concern that this might be the start of a disturbing trend as the virus sweeps the country.

The two deaths on Monday were the first reported by the National Health Commission (NHC) since December 3, just days before Beijing announced it was abandoning controls that had mostly kept the virus under control for three years but sparked huge protests last month.

Officially, China has had 5,237 Covid-related deaths during the epidemic, including the most recent two fatalities, a small percentage of its 1.4 billion population and extremely low by global standards.

The NHC also reported 1,995 clinical infections on December 18, down from 2,097 the day before.

Experts warn that China may pay a price for shielding a population that has natural immunity and has poor vaccination rates among the elderly as it strives to align with a globe that has largely opened up in an effort to live with the virus.