Health workers attend to Covid-19 patients in an intensive care unit converted from a conference room, at a hospital in Cangzhou in Hebei province of China on Jan 11. (China Daily via Reuters)
Health workers attend to Covid-19 patients in an intensive care unit converted from a conference room, at a hospital in Cangzhou in Hebei province of China on Jan 11. (China Daily via Reuters)

Chinese health authorities on Saturday reported almost 60,000 Covid-related deaths in just over a month, in the first major update released by the government since the loosening of its virus restrictions in early December.

The country recorded 59,938 Covid-related deaths between Dec 8, 2022 and Jan 12 this year, an official told a news conference.

The figure refers only to deaths recorded at medical facilities, with the total toll likely to be higher.

It includes 5,503 deaths caused by respiratory failure directly due to the virus, and 54,435 deaths caused by underlying diseases combined with Covid, the official said.

The number of people in hospital with “severe” Covid cases is also starting to decline, authorities said. They gave a figure of 105,000 as of Jan 12, compared with 128,000 on Jan 5.

Tens of millions of people are now believed to have become infected, though the vast majority of cases are mild and authorities say they have not detected any new variants so far.

China has been accused of underreporting its number of virus deaths since abandoning its zero-Covid policy in early December.

While international health experts have predicted at least 1 million Covid-related deaths in China this year, the country had previously reported just over 5,000 since the pandemic began, one of the lowest death rates in the world.

In a related report, a study estimates that nearly all of Beijing’s 22 million population will have been infected with the coronavirus by the end of this month.

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