China Sees 60K Deaths Linked to COVID Since Last Month

Beijing official suggests the worst is over
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 15, 2023 6:32 AM CST
China Sees 60K Deaths Linked to COVID Since Last Month
Family members of the deceased line up for the cremation procedures at a funeral home in Shanghai, China on Jan. 4, 2023.   (Chinatopix Via AP)

China on Saturday reported nearly 60,000 deaths in people who had COVID-19 since early December, when the nation abruptly lifted its strict pandemic restrictions. Those numbers may still underestimate the toll, though the government said the “emergency peak" of its latest surge appears to have passed, per the AP. The toll included 5,503 deaths due to respiratory failure caused by COVID-19 and 54,435 fatalities from other ailments combined with COVID-19 since Dec. 8, the National Health Commission announced. It said those “deaths related to COVID” occurred in hospitals, which means anyone who died at home would not be included in the numbers.

Before Saturday's announcement, the government had released little data about the status of the pandemic for weeks. China stopped reporting data on COVID-19 deaths and infections after lifting anti-virus controls in December despite a surge in infections that began in October and has filled hospitals with feverish, wheezing patients. Hospitals in Beijing across the country have been overwhelmed with patients, and funeral homes and crematoriums have struggled to handle the dead. Infection numbers now appear to be falling based on a decline in the number of patients visiting fever clinics, said a National Health Commission official, Jiao Yahui.

The daily number of people going to those clinics peaked at 2.9 million on Dec. 23 and had fallen by 83% to to 477,000 on Thursday, according to Jiao. “These data show the national emergency peak has passed,” Jiao said at a news conference. Whether China truly has passed a COVID-19 peak is hard to assess, said Dr. Dale Bratzler, chief COVID officer at the University of Oklahoma and head of quality control at the university’s hospital. “That’s difficult to know,” Bratzler said. “China quarantined people indoors, there are many people unvaccinated, the people are vulnerable.”

(Read more China stories.)

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