China reports 60,000 COVID-related deaths, says Peak Passed
BEIJING (AP) — China on Saturday reported nearly 60,000 deaths among people who had contracted COVID-19 since early December after complaints it was not releasing data, saying the “emergency peak” of its recent surge apparently exceeded.
The toll included 5,503 deaths from respiratory arrest caused by COVID-19 and 54,435 deaths from other diseases combined with COVID-19 since Dec. 8, the National Health Commission said. It said these “COVID-related deaths” were occurring in hospitals, leaving open the possibility that more people could have died at home as well.
The report would more than double China’s official death toll from COVID-19 to 10,775 since the disease was first detected in downtown Wuhan in late 2019.
China has stopped reporting data on COVID-19 deaths and infections after abruptly lifting antivirus controls in early December despite a spike in infections that began in October and has filled hospitals with feverish, wheezing patients.
The World Health Organization and other governments asked for information after reports from city and provincial governments suggested hundreds of millions of people in China may have contracted the virus.
The peak of the latest wave of infections appears to have passed as the number of patients visiting fever clinics has declined, said National Health Commission official Jiao Yahui.
The daily number of people visiting these clinics peaked at 2.9 million on Dec. 23 and was down 83% to 477,000 on Thursday, Jiao said.
“These data show that the national emergency has passed,” Jiao 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 the issuance of new visas for travelers 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 aimed at isolating every case. That blocked access to some cities, kept millions at home and sparked angry protests.
The median age of people who have died since December 8 is 80.3 years and 90.1% are aged 65 and over, according to the Health Commission. More than 90% of those who died suffered from cancer, heart or lung disease or kidney problems.
“The number of elderly patients dying from disease is relatively large, which suggests that we should pay more attention to elderly patients and do our best to save their lives,” Jiao said.
This month, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said agency officials had met with Chinese officials to underscore the importance of sharing more details about COVID-19 issues, including hospitalization rates and genetic sequences.