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35 Days, 60,000 Dead: China Comes Clean on the Toll of Its Covid Surge

Image Credit: The Boston Globe
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The first reported numbers of the new year sure look a lot different than the 37 that were announced last month… but the true toll is almost certainly a lot higher.

China’s health authorities on Saturday, January 14 reported almost 60,000 Covid-related deaths in just over a month, a sharp revision over its claim that only 37 had died since abandoning its zero-Covid strategy in early December.

China recorded 59,938 Covid-related deaths between December 8, 2022 and January 12 this year, according to Jiao Yahui, head of the Bureau of Medical Administration under the National Health Commission.

However, the alarming figure, announced in a press conference, still refers only to deaths recorded at medical facilities, with the true total death toll likely to be considerably higher.

For comparative reference, Malaysia has logged just under 37,000 Covid deaths during the entirety of the pandemic to date — nearly three years.

China has been accused of significantly underreporting its number of Covid deaths since shifting away from its zero-Covid policy in early December.

When pressed on this, China’s health officials insisted last week that it was “not necessary” to dwell on the exact number of people dying.

“DID WE SAY 37? WE MEANT 60,000.”

The recent announcement and China’s dramatic revision of its death toll follows criticism by international health experts and complaints by citizens that the government has been vastly understating the number of deaths caused by the virus.

Authorities have recently come under added scrutiny following reports of overwhelmed funeral homes and hospitals. A report by The Washington Post last week documented a surge in traffic outside funeral homes, according to satellite imagery, firsthand videos, and interviews with crematorium staff and residents.

Beijing had previously revised its methodology for categorizing Covid fatalities, saying it would count only those who die specifically of respiratory failure caused by the virus. Now they seem to have rethought that decision.

Officials have also noted that 90% of its nearly 60,000 Covid fatalities were over 65 years of age. This should cause concern as there are currently millions of people over 60 in China who are unvaccinated.


Reporting from The Associated Press, The Washington Post, and AFP contributed to this article.

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