COVID-19 outbreak in China
COVID-19 outbreak in ChinaREUTERS

China on Saturday reported nearly 60,000 deaths among people who had COVID-19 since early December, saying the “emergency peak” of its latest surge appears to have passed, The Associated Press reported.

The toll included 5,503 deaths due to respiratory failure caused by COVID-19 and 54,435 fatalities from other ailments combined with COVID-19 since December 8, the National Health Commission announced. It said those “deaths related to COVID” occurred in hospitals, which left open the possibility more people also might have died at home.

China published the report following complaints it was failing to release data. The report would more than double China’s official COVID-19 death toll to 10,775 since the disease was first detected in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019.

China has counted only deaths from pneumonia or respiratory failure in its official COVID-19 death toll, a narrow definition that excludes many deaths that would be attributed to COVID-19 in other places.

The country stopped reporting data on COVID-19 deaths and infections after abruptly lifting anti-virus controls in early December despite a surge in infections that began in October.

The World Health Organization and other governments appealed for information after reports by city and provincial governments suggest as many as hundreds of millions of people in China might have contracted the virus, according to AP.

The peak of the latest infection wave appears to have passed based on the decline in the number of patients visiting fever clinics, said a National Health Commission official, Jiao Yahui.

The United States, South Korea and other governments have recently imposed virus-testing and other controls on people arriving from China. Beijing retaliated on Wednesday by suspending issuance of new visas to travelers from South Korea and Japan.

In Israel, Health Minister Aryeh Deri decided in late December that airlines will require foreign citizens to undergo a COVID-19 test on flights from China to Israel.

Last week, a voluntary sampling station for COVID-19 opened at Ben Gurion Airport.