China reports almost 60,000 Covid-related deaths since early December

Chinese government says ‘deaths related to Covid’ occurred in hospitals, leaving open possibility more people might have died at home

The Chinese government has reported nearly 60,000 deaths involving people who had Covid-19 since early December, following complaints officials were failing to release data about the pandemic.

The government in Beijing said the “emergency peak” of its latest coronavirus surge appears to have passed.

The toll includes 5,503 deaths due to respiratory failure directly caused by Covid-19 and 54,435 fatalities from other ailments combined with Covid-19 since December 8th, the National Health Commission announced.

It said those “deaths related to Covid” occurred in hospitals, which left open the possibility that more people also might have died at home.


The report would more than double China’s official Covid-19 death toll to 10,775 since the disease was first detected in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019.

China stopped reporting data on Covid-19 deaths and infections after abruptly lifting antivirus controls in early December despite a surge in infections that began in October and has filled hospitals with patients.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and other governments appealed for information after reports by city and provincial governments suggested as many as hundreds of millions of people in China might have contracted the virus.

The peak of the latest infection wave appears to have passed based on the decline in the number of patients visiting fever clinics, said National Health Commission official, Jiao Yahui.

The daily number of people going to those clinics peaked at 2.9 million on December 23rd and had fallen by 83 per cent to to 477,000 on Thursday, according to the spokesperson.

“These data show the national emergency peak has passed,” the official said at a news conference.

The United States, South Korea and other governments have imposed virus-testing and other controls on people arriving from China. Beijing retaliated on Wednesday by suspending new visas for travellers from South Korea and Japan.

China kept its infection rate and deaths lower than those of the United States and some other countries at the height of the pandemic with a “zero-Covid” strategy that aimed to isolate every case.

That shut down access to some cities, kept millions of people at home and sparked angry protests.

The average age of people who died since December 8th is 80.3 years and 90.1 per cent are aged 65 and above, according to the health commission. It said more than 90 per cent of people who died had cancer, heart or lung diseases or kidney problems.

“The number of elderly patients dying from illness is relatively large, which suggests that we should pay more attention to elderly patients and try our best to save their lives,” officials said.

This month, WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said agency officials met with Chinese officials to underline the importance of sharing more details about Covid-19 issues including hospital rates and genetic sequences. - AP