China said that nearly 60,000 have died from COVID-19 and related complications since authorities lifted harsh restrictions in December after nationwide protests, Reuters reported Saturday.
Jiao Yahui, the head of the Bureau of Medical Administration under China’s National Health Commission, told a media briefing that 59,938 people had died in hospitals across the country as a result of the virus outbreak.
Some 5,503 of those were directly the result of COVID-19, she added, while others were the result of complicating factors and other diseases alongside the virus infection.
The weekend report comes amid increased scrutiny of China’s lack of transparency around hospitalizations and deaths arising from recent outbreaks. Until today, authorities had maintained that a little over 5,000 people had died of the virus since the outbreak began in Wuhan in 2019.
Since the official end of the ‘zero-COVID’ policy in early December, China had reported only 37 virus-related deaths, the Washington Post reported.
Photos of crematoriums and hospitals filling to capacity have flooded social media and netizens quickly rushed to condemn official reports citing low death numbers. In one case, on Dec 26th, authorities reported only one COVID-19 death in China.
"Ask your conscience -- do you believe this?" one comment about the statement read, while another quipped: "Is this the department of disease control or the ministry of magic?"
International health experts have estimated that at least 1 million people have died from COVID-related health complications in 2022, Reuters said. The World Health Organization had repeatedly appealed for increased transparency from Chinese authorities.
The United States and several other countries had cited the lack of transparency around case numbers as the reason behind requiring testing of passengers flying in from China. On Dec 28th, the U.S. joined Italy, Japan, Taiwan, and India in requiring passengers from China to test negative before arrival.
Edited by Malcolm Foster.