China deleted data on Covid deaths after citizens discovered a huge wave of deaths in one region after lifting lockdown rules
Cremation in Zhejiang Province rose 73 percent in the first quarter of the year
Chinese officials have deleted data on Covid deaths after the number of deaths in an affluent region spiked following the government’s sudden relaxation of strict Covid lockdown rules, reports said.
The number of cremations in the coastal Zhejiang province is said to have increased by 73 percent in the first quarter of 2023 compared to a year earlier.
The recorded number, 171,000, was better than the 99,000 and 91,000 deaths reported in the same period in 2022 and 2021, the FT reports.
Bodies have been piling up at the crematorium after Xi Jinping’s government announced late last year that it would revise its Covid restrictions, but no Covid-19 deaths have been recorded.
The revelation comes after China was accused of ‘suppressing information’ instead of warning the world about Covid and presenting the true death toll.
The number of cremations in coastal Zhejiang province is reported to have increased by 73 percent in the first quarter of 2023 compared to a year earlier.
Low immunity – due to poor vaccination rates and lack of previous infections after strict lockdowns – is believed to be the reason for the rise in coronavirus cases in early 2023.
Hospitals are overflowing with Covid patients after China’s long lockdown was eased, and now authorities have failed to release detailed and accurate numbers.
China has failed to release data on the number of cremation services held in the fourth quarter of 2022, preventing public access to the figures, which have been published quarterly since 2007.
The Ministry of Civil Affairs omitted the figure from its quarterly release of national civil affairs data, while provinces also appeared to withhold data, the South China Morning Post reported last month.
Access to such datasets helps researchers assess how viruses spread through populations.
Willy Lam, a senior fellow at think-tank The Jamestown Foundation, said the Zhejiang data is a small part of the bigger picture, which China has accused of covering up failures to manage the epidemic.
“Releasing all these deaths would be very useful for researchers, but it would affect Xi Jinping’s position and show how his administration mishandled the sudden lifting of zero-covid controls,” he told the FT.
Some experts now say Covid may have originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Security personnel are pictured here keeping watch during the WHO’s visit in 2021
Earlier this month, Dr Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of the medical journal The Lancet, told the UK government’s Covid inquiry that Beijing had failed to inform international health organizations about the threat of the fast-growing virus.
He urged laboratories working with highly dangerous microbes to undergo ‘stronger international regulations’.
Dr Horton told the inquiry: ‘The initial response of local government officials in Wuhan was to suppress information, not to inform.
‘The initial signal came through Pro-Med. It did not come to the World Health Organization (WHO) through the official channels of the Chinese government.’
In December, there were fears that widespread infection among the Chinese population would lead to a new wave of the virus worldwide.
Up to 250 million people were diagnosed with 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 percent of the population was infected after Beijing relaxed its strict lockdown measures.
Low immunity — due to poor vaccination rates and lack of prior infection — is believed to have driven the wave.
China has also been linked by the authors of two UN reports investigating where the origin of Covid-19 came from.
Epidemiologists Colin Butler and Delia Randolph said in January that they believe a laboratory leak is the most likely cause of Covid-19.