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China reported nearly 13,000 new coronavirus-related deaths in a week

A doctor in the emergency room of a hospital in Shanghai performs cardiopulmonary resuscitation on a coronavirus patient lying on the ground.
A doctor in the emergency room of a hospital in Shanghai performs cardiopulmonary resuscitation on a coronavirus patient lying on the ground.

WASHINGTON — China reported 12,658 deaths associated with coronavirus infection in hospitals between Jan. 13 and 19, compared with nearly 60,000 deaths a month or so. Chinese experts say the wave of infections across the country has peaked.

The latest death toll from China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention comes as questions about Beijing’s data transparency and the death toll remains extremely low by global standards.

Since China abandoned the world’s strictest coronavirus control and mass testing policies in early December, hospitals and funeral homes have been overcrowded, causing significant economic losses and stress.

After historic protests against lockdown measures, China’s zero-zero policy suddenly took a 180-degree turn, allowing the virus to spread among its 1.4 billion people. Since the emergence of this new crown pneumonia in Wuhan at the end of 2019, the dynamic zero policy has left most Chinese largely unaffected by the disease.

The deaths reported by Chinese authorities do not include people who died at home, and some doctors said authorities discouraged them from writing “Die from coronavirus” on their death certificates.

On January 14, China reported nearly 60,000 coronavirus-related deaths in hospitals between December 8 and January 12, a significant increase from the more than 5,000 deaths previously reported throughout the pandemic.

Funeral home spending on items ranging from body bags to crematoriums has risen in many provinces, one of several signs that the coronavirus outbreak is having a deadly impact in China, the documents show.

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Some health experts predict that more than 1 million people will die from the coronavirus in China this year. Britain-based health data firm Airfinity predicts that the number of coronavirus deaths could reach 36,000 a day this week.

As millions of migrant workers return home for the Chinese New Year, health experts are particularly worried about people living in China’s vast rural areas, where medical facilities are poor compared to the affluent coastal areas.

According to People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, rail passenger traffic is expected to be about 110 million from January 7 to 21, the first 15 days of the 40-day Spring Festival, up 28% year-on-year.

According to CCTV, railways, roads, ships, and planes carried a total of 26.23 million passengers on Chinese New Year’s Eve night, half of the pre-pandemic level, but an increase of 50.8% over last year.

Wu Zunyou, a chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said on the social media platform Weibo on Saturday that large-scale movement of people during the holiday season could spread the outbreak and increase infections in some areas, but a second wave of the coronavirus epidemic is unlikely in the short term.

With 80 percent of people already infected, he said, there is little chance of a sharp rebound in China’s coronavirus epidemic in the next two to three months.

(This article is based on a Reuters report.) 

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