China announced on Saturday that at least 60,000 people have died from the COVID-19 pandemic since health restrictions were lifted a month ago.
“A total of 59,938 people (deaths) were recorded between Dec. 8, 2022, and Jan. 12, 2023,” Jiao Yahui, a health department official, told reporters.
This report does not take into account deaths recorded outside of hospitals and other healthcare settings.
Of those deaths, 5,503 were a direct result of Covid-19-related respiratory failure, the official added.
After three years of some of the world’s toughest restrictions, China abruptly lifted most of its coronavirus-specific health measures in early December.
Since then, the number of patients has grown rapidly. Hospitals found themselves overwhelmed with elderly patients – and crematoria were overwhelmed by the influx of dead bodies.
Beijing reviewed its method of counting Covid deaths in December. Only people who died directly from coronavirus-related respiratory failure are now included in the statistics.
The controversial methodological change means that a large number of deaths are no longer listed as being caused by the virus.
The World Health Organization (WHO) last week criticized the new definition of death from COVID-19 as “too narrow”.
Beijing has sharply criticized the criticism and called on the WHO to take an “impartial” stance on the coronavirus. On Wednesday, Chinese health authorities said there was “no need” to detail the exact death toll linked to the virus.