WHO urges China to release more information on COVID-19 after Beijing reports 60,000 coronavirus-related deaths

The World Health Organization is urging China to continue releasing COVID-19 data after Beijing on Saturday reported nearly 60,000 coronavirus-related deaths since December 8.

Beijing’s announcement was the first official death toll since the ruling Communist Party abruptly scrapped anti-virus restrictions in December despite a surge in infections that overwhelmed hospitals. That left the World Health Organization and other governments pleading for information, while the United States, South Korea and other countries imposed controls on Chinese visitors.

A woman and children wearing face masks are walked by masked passengers waiting in the departure hall to catch their trains at the West Railway Station in Beijing, on Sunday, January 15, 2023.
(AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Previously, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported only 36 deaths from December 7 to January 8, according to the Washington Post.

In its revised death toll, Beijing said 5,503 people died from respiratory failure caused by COVID-19 and there were 54,435 deaths from cancer, heart disease and other COVID-19-related diseases between January 8 and 12.

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The latest figures represent a significant increase from the previously suspicious total of 10,775 deaths since the disease was first detected in Wuhan in 2019.

The World Health Organization said Saturday’s Beijing announcement “allows for a better understanding of the epidemiological situation”.

Patients lie on beds and stretchers in a corridor of a hospital emergency department, amid the coronavirus outbreak in Shanghai, China January 4, 2023.

Patients lie on beds and stretchers in a corridor of a hospital emergency department, amid the coronavirus outbreak in Shanghai, China January 4, 2023.

She said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke by phone with Health Minister Ma Xiaowei.

“WHO has requested that this kind of detailed information continue to be shared with us and the public,” the organization said.

The National Health Commission said only deaths in hospitals were counted, meaning anyone who died at home would not be included. He did not indicate when or if he would release updated numbers.

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A health official said the “national emergency peak has passed” based on an 83% drop in the daily number of people going to fever clinics from the December 23 peak.

China only counted deaths from pneumonia or respiratory failure in its official tally, which excludes many deaths that might be attributed to the virus in other countries.

Meanwhile, high-speed train service resumed on Sunday between mainland China and Hong Kong under restrictions that allow 5,000 passengers on each side to make the daily journey and require a negative virus test within the past 48 hours.

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The two sides are reopening travel links that were suspended under Beijing’s “zero COVID” strategy, which aims to keep the virus out of China. Hong Kong has imposed various but similarly severe restrictions that have prevented most international travel.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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