China withholds key indicator of Covid death toll as cremation data not released
China has dropped the number of cremations held last winter from a quarterly report, withholding a key indicator of the pandemic death toll during the countrys largest Covid wave, the media reported.
The Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs released summary statistics on marriage and social welfare for the fourth quarter of 2022 last Friday, after months of unexplained delays, which had prompted speculation that the country was not able to track the relevant data, reports the Guardian.
Missing from the quarterly report was the number of cremations held across the country -- a figure the ministry has made public since 2007.
On a provincial level, more than a dozen regions, including Jiangsu and Zhejiang, did not include the figure in their recent reports, while some have yet to release any data at all, the South China Morning Post reported.
The country of 1.4 billion people recorded over 4 million cremations during the third quarter of 2022.
A quarterly or year-on-year comparison could be used to gauge the number of deaths associated with Covid as China abruptly ended its zero-Covid policy last winter.
The sudden pivot from its so-called zero-Covid approach resulted in a massive surge that overwhelmed hospitals and funeral homes in December last year.
Satellite images showed long queues outside funeral homes, while some crematoriums worked around the clock to keep up with the influx of bodies, The Guardian reported.
While the Chinese government stopped announcing the daily number of Covid cases and deaths during the surge, the scenes offered a hint to the severity of the outbreak and how China mishandled its Covid reopening.
Officially, China put the total death toll from mid December to early February at 83,150, the Guardian reported.
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