China reports almost 60,000 Covid19-linked deaths in past 5 weeks

BEIJING, 14 Jan 2023:

Chinese officials today said there were nearly 60,000 Covid19 related deaths in the period between 8 Dec 2022 – when the country began to dismantle its zero coronavirus policy – and Jan 12 of this year, a period of five weeks.

National Health Commission authorities said the average age of the 59,938 registered deaths was around 80, the state-run Global Times reported.

The experts said 90.1% of the patients who died were over 65 and that 90% had underlying health conditions.

A total of 5,503 deaths resulted from respiratory failure directly linked to Covid19 while 54,435 were underlying conditions that worsened due to the infection, officials said.

It is the first time Chinese officials have provided a national death toll since reeling back its strict zero-Covid policy, which had been in place since the pandemic began.

According to the commission, the peak of severe Covid19 cases in the current wave of infection passed on Jan 5, some three weeks after China relaxed its strict coronavirus policy.

The rapid spread of the virus in China in recent weeks has cast doubt on the reliability of official figures, which until now have reported only a handful of recent deaths from the disease despite a surge of cases that has overwhelmed some hospitals.

According to a study by Peking University, around 900 million people have been infected with Covid19 in China since the dismantling of the zero-Covid policy.

Health officials have warned that the current wave of infections might not peak until February or March.

Separately, a virology expert of the country’s disease prevention authority said China has so far not detected any locally transmitted cases of the XBB.1.5 sub-variant of the omicron strain of the coronavirus.

Since Oct 16, locally transmitted cases of the XBB variants have been reported in China, Chen Cao, a researcher with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said in comments published by state news agency Xinhua today.

Chen said that XBB.1.5 had high transmissibility as well as a strong capability to evade immunity and was being monitored across the world, with cases being reported in at least 40 countries and regions so far.

Between 1 Dec 2022 and 10 Jan 2023, China registered a total of 19 omicron substrains in the country, with the BA.5.2 and BF.7 subvariants being the dominant ones, Chen said.