AP

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

Jan 14, 2023, 3:45 AM | Updated: 11:12 pm

Travelers wearing face masks walk toward the entrance of the Beijing Railway Station in Beijing, Sa...

Travelers wearing face masks walk toward the entrance of the Beijing Railway Station in Beijing, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023. Millions of Chinese are expected to travel during the Lunar New Year holiday period this year. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

(AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

BEIJING (AP) — China on Saturday reported nearly 60,000 deaths in people who had COVID-19 since early December, offering hard numbers for an unprecedented surge that was apparent in overcrowded hospitals and packed crematoriums, even as the government released little data about the status of the pandemic for weeks.

Those numbers may still underestimate the toll, though the government said the “emergency peak” of its latest surge appears to have passed.

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.

The report would more than double China’s official COVID-19 death toll to 10,775 since the disease was first detected in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019. China has counted only deaths from pneumonia or respiratory failure in its official COVID-19 death toll, a narrow definition that excludes many deaths that would be attributed to COVID-19 in much of the world.

China stopped reporting data on COVID-19 deaths and infections after abruptly lifting anti-virus controls in early 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.

The World Health Organization and other governments appealed for information after reports by city and provincial governments suggested as many as hundreds of millions of people in China might have contracted the virus.

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.”

Dr. Albert Ko, an infectious disease physician and professor of public health at the Yale School of Public Health, said the number of COVID-19 deaths China is reporting may be a “significant underestimation” because of how they define them.

“They’re using a very narrow case definition for (COVID) deaths,” Ko said. “They have to have respiratory failure … in order to be counted as a case you have to be at a place where they can say you fulfilled all the requirements, and that’s at a hospital.”

Hospitals in China, Ko said, are located mostly in large cities where COVID outbreaks have been reported, not in isolated rural areas.

“This is the Lunar New Year, people are traveling, going to the countryside where the population is vulnerable,” Ko said. “We’re really worried about what’s going to happen in China as this outbreak moves to the countryside.”

For nearly three years, China had kept its infection rate and deaths far lower than those of the United States and some other countries at the height of the pandemic with a “zero-COVID” strategy that aimed to isolate every case. That shut down access to some cities, kept millions of people at home and sparked angry protests.

Those rules were suddenly eased in early December after some of the largest shows of public dissent against the ruling Communist Party in more than 30 years. That set off new problems in a country that relies on domestically developed vaccines that are less reliable than others used globally, and where older people — those more susceptible to dying from the virus — are less likely to be vaccinated than the general population.

The Health Commission said the average age of people who died since Dec. 8 is 80.3 years, and 90.1% are aged 65 and above. It said more than 90% of people who died had cancer, heart or lung diseases or kidney problems.

“The number of elderly patients dying from illness is relatively large, which suggests that we should pay more attention to elderly patients and try our best to save their lives,” said Jiao.

The United States, South Korea, Japan and several other countries have imposed virus testing and other controls on people arriving from China. Beijing retaliated on Wednesday by suspending 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 underline the importance of sharing more details about COVID-19 issues, including hospitalization rates and genetic sequences.

___

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

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

A newly released report on last year’s fatal crash involving a pickup truck and a group of bicycl...

Associated Press

Report suggests steering of vehicle that caused fatal Goodyear bicycle crash worked fine

A new report on last year’s fatal Goodyear bicycle crash has cast doubts about the driver’s claim the vehicle’s steering locked up.

4 hours ago

Israeli Embassy...

Associated Press

US airman dies after setting himself ablaze outside Israeli Embassy in Israel-Hamas war protest

An active-duty member of the U.S. Air Force has died after he set himself ablaze outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C.

2 days ago

Biden and Trump to visit Mexico border Thursday immigration...

Associated Press

Biden and Trump both plan trips to the Mexico border Thursday, dueling for advantage on immigration

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump will make dueling trips to the U.S-Mexico border on Thursday.

2 days ago

Arizona and New York attorneys feud over extraditing suspect...

Associated Press

Why Alvin Bragg and Rachel Mitchell are fighting over extraditing suspect in New York hotel killing

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell says she isn't into extraditing a suspect due to her lack of faith in Manhattan’s top prosecutor.

6 days ago

A Gila monster is displayed at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Dec. 14, 2018. A 34-year-old Color...

Associated Press

Colorado man dies after being bitten by pet Gila monster

A Colorado man has died after being bitten by his pet Gila monster in what would be a rare death by one of the desert lizards if the creature's venom turns out to have been the cause.

7 days ago

Police clear the area following a shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs NFL football Super Bowl celebr...

Associated Press

1 dead, many wounded after shooting at Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory parade

One person died after 22 people were hit by gunfire in a shooting at the end of the Kansas Chiefs' Super Bowl victory celebration Wednesday.

14 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Valley residents should be mindful of plumbing ahead of holidays

With Halloween in the rear-view and more holidays coming up, Day & Night recommends that Valley residents prepare accordingly.

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