China has reported 60,000 Covid-related deaths in just over a month, the first major death toll released since the country stopped its zero-Covid policy.
China has been widely accused of underreporting coronavirus deaths, despite evidence of hospitals and crematoriums being overrun.
According to officials, China recorded 59,938 Covid-related deaths between 8 December and 12 January.
Most of those who died were over 80, with most having underlying conditions.
The figures, include 5,503 deaths caused by respiratory failure directly due to the virus, and 54,435 caused by underlying conditions combined with the virus. The real total is likely to be higher because which the figures refer only to deaths recorded at medical facilities.
Last month, Beijing changed the way it categorises Covid deaths, only counting towards its total those who died of respiratory failure directly induced by the virus.
The World Health Organisation criticised the definition, describing it as “too narrow”.
Beijing has always contended that its figures are accurate, calling on the WHO to “uphold a scientific, objective and just position”.
Officials said that the peak of patients hospitalised with severe Covid was in early January, although the number subsequently remained high.
They said that they would continue to monitor the situation in rural areas, focusing on early detection and prioritising treatment of the most vulnerable.