China says nearly 60,000 people died of COVID since restrictions eased

The Chinese government says nearly 60,000 people infected with COVID have died since preventive measures were eased.

Chinese health authorities told reporters on Saturday that 59,938 patients had died in medical facilities between December 8 and Thursday.

The government had earlier announced only 38 deaths in the same period.

The virus spread quickly after the country virtually ended the zero COVID policy and eased restrictions on December 7.

During the period in question, the government had said that infected people with an underlying disease who died were not considered victims of COVID.

But authorities now say that infected people with an underlying disease who died are being counted as COVID victims.

The officials say in the five week period, 5,503 people died of respiratory failure while 54,435 others died of complications. 90 percent of them were aged 65 or older.

The authorities say, as of Thursday, about 100,000 people were in serious condition, and that 75.3 percent of hospital beds in the country are occupied.

The World Health Organization had criticized the Chinese government's earlier announcement saying they didn't reflect the actual situation.