China has reported seven more deaths from COVID-19 in the locked-down city of Shanghai, a day after announcing its first fatalities from a weeks-long outbreak driven by the Omicron variant.
The deaths on Tuesday bring the total death toll in Shanghai to 10, with the virus continuing to spread.
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Beijing insists its zero COVID policy of strict lockdowns, mass testing and lengthy quarantines has kept deaths low and avoided the public health crises that have engulfed much of the rest of the world.
But some have cast doubt on official figures in a nation where many in their 60s and above have been reluctant to get vaccinated.
The first three people confirmed dead were elderly and had not been vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The seven who died on Tuesday were also unvaccinated, city health official Wu Qianyu told a news conference, and were aged between 60 and 101. All the dead also had illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease, according to the authorities.
The patients “became severely ill after admission to hospital, and died after ineffective rescue efforts, with the direct cause of death being underlying diseases”, the commission said.
Unverified social media posts have claimed Shanghai’s deaths are going unreported, but the messages have been quickly removed from the internet.
Shanghai health officials said on Sunday that fewer than two-thirds of residents aged above 60 had received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and less than 40 percent had received a booster.
The east coast city reported more than 20,000 new and mostly asymptomatic cases on Tuesday, even with many of the city’s 25 million residents confined to their homes since late March.
The city has reported more than 300,000 cases in the Omicron wave, and a new temporary hospital with more than 7,000 beds opened its doors on Sunday to admit patients with mild or no symptoms of the disease.
The country’s zero-tolerance approach to the virus had largely kept COVID-19 in check since it first emerged in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019.
But dealing with Omicron has proved more of a challenge, with officials scrambling to contain outbreaks across several regions.
By one estimate on Monday, about 350 million people in at least 44 cities are currently under some form of lockdown in China.
Residents of the capital Beijing have also been advised to “stay put” for next month’s Labour Day holidays, the state-run Global Times reported, while capacities at indoor public places such as museums, art galleries and cinemas have been limited to 75 percent.
People returning from outside the city also have to provide a negative result from a nucleic acid test taken within the previous 48 hours.