China reports 60,000 COVID-related deaths, says peak passed

BEIJING (AP) — China on Saturday reported nearly 60,000 deaths among people infected with COVID-19 since early December, providing hard numbers for the unprecedented surge, which is evident in overcrowded hospitals. and filled cremations, Even though the government has released little data on the state of the epidemic for weeks.

Although the “emergency peak” of its recent surge appears to have passed, those numbers may still underestimate the numbers.

The National Health Commission reported that there were 5,503 deaths due to respiratory disease caused by COVID-19 and 54,435 deaths due to other diseases associated with COVID-19 since December 8. It said the numbers did not include “COVID-related deaths” that occurred in hospitals, meaning anyone who died at home.

The report would double China’s official COVID-19 death toll to 10,775 since the disease was first identified in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019. A narrow definition that excludes many deaths due to Covid-19 in most parts of the world.

China stopped reporting data on COVID-19 deaths and infections after it abruptly lifted anti-virus restrictions in early December, despite flooding hospitals with fever and shortness of breath patients since October. Hospitals in Beijing across the country are overflowing with patients, and funeral homes and crematoriums are struggling to handle the dead.

World Health Organization Other governments have appealed for information after reports from city and provincial governments suggested hundreds of millions of people in China may have been infected by the virus.

National Health Commission official Xiao Yahui said the number of infections is now declining, based on a decrease in the number of patients coming to flu clinics.

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According to Jiao, the daily number of people visiting those clinics peaked at 2.9 million on Dec. 23 and fell 83% to 477,000 on Thursday.

“This data shows that the national emergency peak has been passed,” Jio told a news conference.

It’s difficult to assess whether China has truly passed the peak of Covid-19, said Dr. Dale Bratzler, the University of Oklahoma’s chief Covid officer and head of quality control at the university hospital.

“It’s hard to know,” Bratzler said. “The people of China are isolated indoors, there are many people who are not vaccinated, and people are vulnerable.”

Dr. Albert Ko, an infectious disease physician and professor of public health at the Yale School of Public Health, said China’s reported number of COVID-19 deaths may be a “significant underestimate” because of how they are defined.

“They use a very narrow case definition for (COVID) deaths,” Koh said. “They have to have respiratory distress … to count as a case, you have to be in a place where they can say you’ve met all the requirements, and that’s in a hospital.”

Hospitals in China are located in large cities where cases of Covid infections have been reported, rather than in isolated rural areas, Goh said.

“It’s the Lunar New Year, people travel, people go to vulnerable rural areas,” Koh said. “We’re very concerned about what’s going to happen in China as this outbreak moves into the countryside.”

For nearly three years, China has kept its infection rates and deaths much lower than the US and some other countries at the peak of the pandemic with a “zero-Covid” strategy. Aiming to isolate each case. It cut off access to some cities, kept millions at home and sparked angry protests.

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Those rules were suddenly relaxed in early December after the biggest shows of public discontent against the Communist Party, which has ruled for more than 30 years. That creates new problems in a country that relies on domestically developed vaccines that are less reliable than others used globally, and older people — who are more likely to die from the virus — are less likely to be vaccinated. than the general public.

The health authority said the average age of those who died since December 8 was 80.3, and 90.1% were aged 65 and over. More than 90% of those who died suffered from cancer, heart or lung diseases or kidney problems.

“The number of elderly patients dying from the disease is relatively large, which suggests that we should pay more attention to elderly patients and do everything we can to save their lives,” Xiao said.

The United States, South Korea, Japan and many other countries have imposed virus testing and other restrictions on people arriving from China. Beijing retaliated on Wednesday By stopping the issuance of new visas to travelers from South Korea and Japan.

This month, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said agency officials met with Chinese officials to underscore the importance of sharing more information. About COVID-19 complications, including hospitalization rates and genetic sequencing.

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Associated Press writer Ken Miller contributed to this report from Oklahoma City.

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