Chinese officials said on Saturday the number of COVID-19 related deaths in hospitals totalled 59,938 between Dec. 8 and Jan. 12, with an average age of 80.3 years.
Of those fatalities, 5,503 were caused by respiratory function failure due to COVID infections, while 54,435 resulted from a combination of other diseases and COVID infections, officials said at a media briefing.
Of the patients who died, 90.1% were aged 65 and older.
Authorities had been reporting five or fewer deaths a day over the past month - figures inconsistent with long queues seen at funeral homes and body bags seen leaving crowded hospitals.
In December, officials said they planned monthly, rather than daily updates.
While international health experts have predicted at least 1 million COVID-related deaths this year, China had previously reported just over 5,000 since the pandemic began, one of the lowest death rates in the world.
COVID fever and emergency hospitalisations have peaked in China and the number of hospitalised COVID patients is continuing to decline, a Chinese health official said on Saturday.
Nationwide, "the number of fever clinic visitors is generally in a declining trend after peaking, both in cities and rural areas," Jiao Yahui, an official from the National Health Commission, told a news conference.
Jiao said the number of emergency treatment patients was also declining and the ratio of patients who had tested positive for COVID-19 was steadily falling as well.
The number of severe cases has also peaked, she added, though remained at a high level, and patients were mostly elderly.
Wen Daxiang, a Shanghai Health Commission official, said China would strengthen health monitoring and management of the high-risk population.
He added that China would bolster the supply of drugs and medical equipment, and beef up training of grassroots medical workers to combat COVID in rural regions.
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