BEIJING (Reuters) - China said nearly 60,000 people with COVID-19 had died in hospital since it abruptly dismantled its zero-COVID policy in early December, a big increase from previously reported figures that follows global criticism of the country's coronavirus data.
Between Dec. 8 and Jan. 12, the number of COVID-related deaths in Chinese hospitals totalled 59,938, with an average age of 80.3 among the deceased, Jiao Yahui, head of the Bureau of Medical Administration under the National Health Commission (NHC), told a media briefing on Saturday.
She said 5,503 of the fatalities were caused by respiratory failure due to COVID, while 54,435 resulted from a combination of COVID and other diseases.
Of the patients who died, 90.1% were aged 65 and older.
China last reported daily figures of COVID deaths on Monday.
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.
(Reporting by Tony Munroe; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Helen Popper)
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