China deletes Covid data after citizens see deaths surge in one region

China deletes Covid mortality data after citizens discover huge surge in deaths in one region after lockdown rules were axed

  • Zhejiang province cremations were up 73 per cent in the first quarter of the year

Chinese officials have deleted Covid mortality data after it showed deaths had soared in a wealthy area following the government’s sudden relaxation of strict Covid lockdown rules, according to reports.

The number of cremations reported in the coastal Zhejiang province reportedly jumped by 73 per cent in the first quarter of 2023 from a year earlier.

The number recorded, 171,000, was well up from the 99,000 and 91,000 deaths reported in the same period in 2022 and 2021, the FT reports.

Bodies piled up in crematoria after Xi Jinping’s government revealed it would overhaul its Covid restrictions late last year, but no Covid-19 deaths were recorded.

The revelation comes after China was accused of ‘suppressing information’ instead of alerting the world to Covid and underrepresenting the real number of deaths.

The number of cremations reported in the coastal Zhejiang province reportedly jumped by 73 per cent in the first quarter of the 2023 from a year earlier 

Low immunity — due to poor vaccination rates and a lack of previous infections following strict lockdowns — is thought to have driven an increase in Coronavirus cases at the start of 2023

Hospitals filled with Covid patients after China’s lengthy lockdown eased, and now authorities have failed to release detailed and accurate numbers. 

China failed to release data on the number of cremation services held in the fourth quarter of 2022, preventing public access to figures which have been published quarterly since 2007.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs scrapped the figure from its quarterly release of national civil affairs data, while provinces also appeared to be withholding information, the South China Morning Post reported last month.

Access to datasets like this helps researchers to assess how the virus spread through the population.

Willy Lam, a senior fellow at think-tank The Jamestown Foundation, said Zhejiang’s data was just a small part of the bigger picture, with China accused of covering up failings in its handling of the pandemic.

‘Publishing all of this death data would be very useful to researchers, but it would affect Xi Jinping’s standing and show how his administration mishandled the sudden lifting of zero-Covid controls,’ he told the FT.

Some experts now say Covid may have emerged from within the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Here security personnel are pictured keeping watch during a visit by the WHO in 2021

Earlier this month, Dr Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of medical journal The Lancet, told the UK government’s Covid Inquiry that Beijing failed to inform international health bodies of the rapidly rising virus threat. 

He also called for laboratories working with highly dangerous microbes to undergo ‘stronger international regulation’. 

Dr Horton told the probe: ‘The initial response by local government officials in Wuhan was to suppress information, not to report information. 

‘The initial signal came through pro-MED. It did not come through official channels of the Chinese Government to the World Health Organization (WHO).’

In December, there were fears that mass infections among the Chinese population would lead to a new wave of the virus there going global.

Up to 250million people caught Covid in the first 20 days of December in China, officials estimated at the time.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said 18 per cent of the population were infected, after Beijing eased its strict lockdown measures.

Low immunity — due to poor vaccination rates and a lack of previous infections —is thought to have driven the wave.

The origins of Covid-19 have also been linked to China by the authors of two United Nations reports investigating where it came from.

Epidemiologists Colin Butler and Delia Randolph said in January that they believe a laboratory leak was the most likely cause of Covid-19.

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