China reported on Saturday that nearly 60,000 people have died from Covid-19 in hospitals since the country abandoned its Covid-zero policy last month, a huge increase from previously reported figures.
The information was released after international criticism of the country’s coronavirus data.
In early December, following widespread protests in late November, Beijing abandoned the strict Covid-zero regime after three years of frequent testing, travel restrictions and mass lockdowns. Cases have since spiked across the country of 1.4 billion people.
A health official said on Saturday that emergency Covid hospitalizations had already peaked and the number of hospitalized patients continued to decline.
Between Dec. 8 and Jan. 12, the number of Covid-19-related deaths in Chinese hospitals totaled 59,938, Jiao Yahui, head of the Medical Administration Office of the National Health Commission, said at a press conference.
Of those deaths, 5,503 were caused by respiratory failure due to Covid and the rest resulted from a combination of Covid-19 and other illnesses, she said.
China had recorded just over 5,000 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, one of the lowest death rates in the world.
Authorities reported fewer than five deaths a day last month — numbers inconsistent with the long lines seen at funeral homes and the number of body bags leaving crowded hospitals.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said this week that China was underreporting Covid-19 deaths, even as the country is releasing more information about the outbreak.
China, which last released its daily Covid death tolls on Monday, has repeatedly defended the veracity of its data.
On Saturday, Jiao said that China divides deaths related to Covid-19 between those caused by respiratory failure due to the infection and those caused by the combination of other illnesses with the coronavirus infection.
“The standard is basically in line with those adopted by the World Health Organization and other major countries,” she said.
Last month, at a press conference, the government said that only deaths caused by pneumonia and respiratory failure after contracting Covid would be classified as deaths from Covid-19. Heart attacks or cardiovascular diseases that cause the death of infected people would not receive this classification.
Jiao said the number of patients needing emergency treatment and the proportion of patients who test positive for Covid-19 are steadily decreasing. The number of severe cases has also peaked, she added, although it remains at a high level and patients are mostly elderly.
Officials said that China will increase the supply of medicines and medical equipment in rural areas and strengthen the training of frontline medical staff in these regions.
“The number of visitors to fever clinics is generally on a declining trend after the peak, both in cities and rural areas,” said Jiao.
A sharp increase in travel ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday, when hundreds of millions return home from cities to rural areas, has fueled concern that this will bring a spike in cases during a celebration that begins Jan. 21.
This week, the WHO warned of the risks arising from holiday travel. China reopened its borders on January 8.
Despite concerns about infections, air passenger volumes in China have risen to 63% of 2019 levels since the annual travel season began on Jan. 7, the industry regulator said.
The rapid recovery of business is challenging airlines’ ability to ensure safety, and close attention to risks related to the pandemic is needed, said Song Zhiyong, head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China.
The industry needs to “fully understand the special nature and complexity of migrating to the Spring Festival in 2023,” Song said in a statement on Friday.
The Ministry of Transport predicted that passenger traffic volumes would jump 99.5% on the year during the festival migration, which runs until February 15, or a recovery to 70.3% of 2019 levels.
In Macau’s Chinese gambling hub, Friday’s 46,000 daily travelers were the highest number since the start of the pandemic, the most on the mainland, the city government said. He expects a boom in tourism.
Source: CNN Brasil
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