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This has been asked on medical science SE, but it's probably more suitable here. Worldometers seemingly reports zero deaths from Covid-19 in China in 2021:

enter image description here

But the WHO's similar graph tells a different story for the outbreaks this summer:

enter image description here

So why is there this discrepancy? Do the WHO's death estimates differ from official Chinese data?

Based on a quick "visual scan" of China CDC data it seems indeed they have reported zero Covid-19 deaths in 2021. So, I guess the question is: why does the WHO disagree with that and how did the WHO estimate the number of deaths in 2021 in China?

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  • Looks like data error. European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control disagrees: ecdc.europa.eu/en/geographical-distribution-2019-ncov-cases
    – pinegulf
    Oct 15, 2021 at 7:34
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    @pinegulf: again, I'm not sure why that is a problem/contradiction. I'm asking about deaths, not number of infected. Please write an answer instead of these cryptic comments. (The number of infected in 2021 is not zero on worldometers; their infected graph is horrible [too], but if you mouse over it, it has non-zero daily infections in 2021 for a good number of days. The ECDC instead reports those infections weekly instead of daily, so those numbers are expect to be different. The ECDC doesn't seem to report deaths from China except cumulatively since the begging of the pandemic.)
    – Fizz
    Oct 15, 2021 at 8:31
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    This site (statista.com/statistics/1092918/…) reports 4,636 deaths in China up to Apr. 17, 2020 and then the number of deaths increases slowly reaching 4782 on January 1, 2021, and 4849 on October 10, 2021. So, in conclusion, only 4849 - 4782 = 67 people died in China of Covid-19 in 2021 (up to Oct. 10, 2021) ! Oct 15, 2021 at 16:48
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    @Loren Pechtel , I do not understand what is the difference between 0, 1, 2 and 67 deaths in China for the entire 2021 up to the present (see my previous comment). China, with a population of 1402 mil people, has at most 67 deaths/41.3 weeks = 1.62 deaths / week or 0.00115 deaths/week/mil people !!! which is zero! Yes, China reported 0 deaths/mil/week and nobody else reported more about China with a very good approximation. The one who opened this topic asked a quite pertinent question. and the answer by all accounts is affirmative and at the same time incredible. Oct 17, 2021 at 1:45
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    If you click on “January 26” on the China CDC data link in the question, it says “1 new death (domestic case, Jilin province)” from the previous day (Jan 25). Oct 26, 2021 at 9:37

2 Answers 2

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The difference seems to come from using different sources. From the wordometer website:

For the COVID-19 data, we collect data from official reports, directly from Government's communication channels or indirectly, through local media sources when deemed reliable.

The WHO on the other hand collects their own data. I haven't found a detailed explanation but they quote their data with

Source:World Health Organization

This will involve official government communication but that is surely not their only source.

Note that different sources may use different counting methods or have different methology otherwise so different numbers may mean that one source is wrong but that doesn't have to be the case.

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  • 1
    Yes, obviously WHO isn't just relying on the stream of zeros from CCDC, but that observation is rather restating the question.
    – Fizz
    Oct 15, 2021 at 11:03
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    @Fizz The point is more that wordometer is exclusively relying on the data from the Chinese government. The WHO is not.
    – quarague
    Oct 15, 2021 at 11:50
  • The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and Worldometers say basically the same thing. The discrepancy is small, negligible. The situation of Covid-19 deaths in China up to October 15, 2021: (Source 1) Total deaths - 4,636 (see: worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/china); (Source 2) Total deaths - 4849 (see: ecdc.europa.eu/en/geographical-distribution-2019-ncov-cases). 4849-4636=213. The difference between the reports on ecdc and worldometers is insignificant. Oct 15, 2021 at 16:29
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    @Fizz: The question asks for the reason of the discrepancy between the two figures. This answer points out that the two figures probably use two different data sources. What else is there to answer? If you feel this explanation lacking, there might be a problem with the question instead.
    – Schmuddi
    Oct 16, 2021 at 7:22
  • @Schmuddi: I don't see only a "minor discrepancy" between a stream of absolute zeroes (CCDC) and some non-zero death values, raising to the hundreds at one point (WHO). It's only a "minor discrepancy" if you take the sum over the whole pandemic in China. But for 2021, it's not minor discrepancy, IMHO.
    – Fizz
    Oct 16, 2021 at 7:24
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I found two Covid-19 deaths in mainland China in 2021 which were both reported by the Chinese government and mentioned in Chinese news.

The discrepancy in the two plots likely arises from the sources having different definitions of "China". Taiwan had an outbreak in June 2021, but these data are counted separately on Worldometer whereas they are counted for China by the WHO (hover over Taiwan on this map). (Note that 187 deaths in the WHO screenshot spans a week.)

Hebei province, reported 14 January 2021:

1月13日0—24时,31个省(自治区、直辖市)和新疆生产建设兵团报告新增确诊病例138例,其中境外输入病例14例(上海8例,广东3例,北京1例,河南1例,广西1例),本土病例124例(河北81例,黑龙江43例);新增死亡病例1例,为本土病例(在河北);无新增疑似病例。
Gov.cn, 14 January 2021.

Here's a corresponding video news report:

screenshot of news video
河北新增1例死亡病例详情公布,系中国内地近8个月以来首次增加, 14 January 2021.

Jilin province, reported 26 January 2021:

1月25日0—24时,31个省(自治区、直辖市)和新疆生产建设兵团报告新增确诊病例82例,其中境外输入病例13例(上海8例,广东2例,福建1例,湖南1例,陕西1例),本土病例69例(黑龙江53例,吉林7例,河北5例,北京2例,上海2例);新增死亡病例1例,为本土病例,在吉林;新增疑似病例3例,均为境外输入病例(均在上海)。
Gov.cn, 26 January 2021.

Here's an example news article about this case.

I didn't find any other cases reported. Searching for site:www.gov.cn "死亡病例1例" after:2021-01-01 only gives these two cases.


Note the linked English CDC China Weekly doesn't list these, but if you click through, they're both listed:

National Health Commission Update on January 14, 2021

..., 1 new death (domestic case, Hebei Province), ...

National Health Commission Update on January 26, 2021

..., 1 new death (domestic case, Jilin Province), ...

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