Beijing: China on Saturday reported nearly 60,000 coronavirus deaths in hospitals across the country over the last 30 days, amid criticism from the World Health Organization (WHO) that Beijing was heavily under-reporting the magnitude of the pandemic.
As many as 59,938 covid-19 related deaths were recorded at hospitals from December 8 to January 12, the National Health Commission (NHC) said on Saturday, official media here reported. Medical institutes recorded 5,503 deaths as a result of respiratory failure triggered by covid-19 infections and 54,435 fatalities with underlying conditions, such as cancer or cardiovascular diseases, combined with covid-19, said NHC’s medical affairs director Jiao Yahui.
90% fatalities among those aged over 65
The average age of those who died was 80.3, and 90 per cent of the fatalities were aged 65 or over, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.
WHO has said that China is “heavily underreporting” the number of covid-19 deaths from the current wave of infections sweeping the country. “WHO still believes that deaths are heavily underreported from China. This is in relation to the definitions that are used but also to the need for doctors and those reporting in the public health system to be encouraged to report these cases and not discouraged,” WHO Health Emergencies Programme executive director Michael Ryan said in Geneva.
The new figures come as videos and reports in the social media showed that hospitals, morgues, and crematoriums were being overwhelmed with bodies. Families where deaths have taken place told the media that they were simply asked to leave the bodies at the morgues without mentioning dates for cremation and they would be handed over the ashes after cremation.
The lifting of China’s Zero-covid police
The country’s stringent zero-covid policy was lifted last month after rare anti-government protests against President Xi Jinping, who was re-elected for an unprecedented third term in October last year. As soon as the restrictions were lifted, a massive covid wave fuelled by Omicron variants overwhelmed Beijing and several other cities leading to a steady rise in fatalities.
Health experts here said the country perhaps saw the fastest transmission of the virus with millions getting infected every day. According to a study by Peking University, 900 million people in China have been infected with the virus as of January 11, 2023. The study ranks Gansu province, where 91 per cent of the people are reported to be infected, at the top, followed by Yunnan (84 per cent) and Qinghai (80 per cent).
Beijing, which is hit by Omicron sub-variant BF.7, has announced seven deaths, but later stopped announcing any data of cases and deaths.
Since last month, the WHO has been consistently critical of China not sharing covid data especially that of deaths and admissions to ICUs. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin in response to WHO criticism said that Beijing has been sharing covid data in “a timely, open and transparent manner in accordance with the law”, having held technical exchanges with the WHO over the past month.