60,000 COVID-Related Deaths and 900 Million Infected in China

By Lars James Hamer, January 16, 2023

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The first major death toll figures released since China abandoned its ‘zero-COVID’ policy shows there have been 59,938 COVID-related deaths in the country between December 8 and January 12.

The BBC reports that most of those who have died were over 80 years old and most had underlying health conditions. 

Amongst the deaths, 5,503 were linked to respiratory failure caused by the virus and 54,435 were caused by underlying health conditions combined with the virus.

COVID-related deaths only come from those who died at medical facilities, meaning the actual number could be higher. 

Last month, Beijing also changed what categorizes a COVID death to only “those who died of respiratory failure directly induced by the virus,” reports the BBC. 

However, Beijing has said that their figures are accurate, despite the World Health Organisation criticizing them, saying the definition was “too narrow.”

The death toll figures come as a study by Beijing’s Peking University shows that 900 million people throughout the country have been infected with the virus as of January 11, a staggering 64% of the country. 

Gansu is estimated to be the province with the most infections, where reportedly 91% of people have been infected, followed by Yunnan (84%) and Qinghai (80%). 

Cases are said to surge in rural areas during the Chinese New Year, which will start on January 21. 

During the buildup to the week-long holiday, hundreds of millions of people will begin migrating around the country as many citizens return home or go traveling to celebrate the Spring Festival, likely taking the virus with them. 

In the years before the pandemic, it wasn’t uncommon for 2 billion trips to be made during CNY.

Tens of millions of people have already begun migrating around the country in preparation. 

This being said, the peak of China’s latest COVID wave is expected to come in the next two or three months, Zeng Guang, ex-head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control said. 

Hospitals in major cities have seen an influx of patients since China disbanded the ‘zero-COVID’ policy but they are better equipped to deal with the rise in infections than rural areas. 

Zeng told Caixin news outlet that it is "time to focus on the rural areas" while speaking at an event earlier this month.

[Cover image via Flickr]

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