China reports nearly 13,000 Covid deaths in a single week as officials say peak may be over

China reported nearly 13,000 Covid-19 related deaths last week, officials said over the weekend in a suggestion that the country’s peak of infections might be coming to an end.

China’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a statement on Sunday that the death toll related to Covid in hospitals reached 12,658 in the seven days between 13 and 19 January.

Earlier, China had reported nearly 60,000 deaths between 8 December and 12 January after the country reopened and ended its stringent zero-Covid policy that included snap lockdowns and mass testing.

Wu Zunyou, the CDC’s chief epidemiologist, said in a post on social media platform Weibo that cases might increase due to increased mobility around the Chinese New Year, reported the South China Morning Post newspaper.

“The massive social mobility during Chinese New Year could accelerate the spread of the pandemic to a certain extent, and the number of infected people will increase in some areas,” he wrote on Saturday.

He added that as the current wave of cases had infected about 80 per cent of the population, there was little possibility of a large-scale epidemic rebound or a second wave of cases in the next two to three months.

On Sunday, the country rang in the Lunar New Year with large gatherings and crowds visiting family and temples – marking the country’s biggest festive celebration since the pandemic began three years ago.

“The country as a whole has passed the peak of the wave. Cities and counties of all sizes are basically seeing infections come down,” Mr Wu wrote.

The current surge in China, driven by the BF.7 variant, has overwhelmed its healthcare systems with reports emerging of largescale deaths. The scale of the pandemic, however, is still not known due to lack of data emerging from the country.

Last month, the World Health Organisation had expressed concerns about rising Covid cases and urged Chinese officials to strengthen their response.

(Additional reporting by agencies)