China did not report any new COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday after a health official said it had changed the way the country records mortalities.
Patients with pre-existing conditions who died after showing symptoms are now not counted as COVID-19 deaths, according Wang Guiqiang, head of infectious disease at Peking University’s Number 1 Hospital.
In most other countries, deaths are counted under COVID-19 statistics if the virus contributed to a patient's death.
This difference aligns with China’s conservative way of counting illness statistics, including with the flu. And it adds to concerns that its COVID-19 mortality rate is much higher than reported.
According to AFP, crematoriums across the country are struggling to deal with an increase in the number of bodies.
In Chongqing, a city of 30 million people, one crematorium said it had run out of storage.
"The number of bodies picked up in recent days is many times more than previously," an unnamed source said.
"We are very busy. There is no more cold storage space for bodies. We are not sure [if it's related to COVID-19], you need to ask the leaders in charge."
Another crematory in Zengcheng district said it was "extremely busy".
"It's three or four times busier than in previous years. We are cremating over 40 bodies per day when before it was only a dozen or so," an employee said.
"The whole of Guangzhou is like this. We've constantly been receiving calls.”
On Tuesday, Chinese officials only reported five COVID-19-related deaths, increasing its official tally to 5,242 and then lowering it to 5,241 the next day.
Earlier this month, Beijing took major steps away from its Zero-COVID policy.
Its once-hailed policy previously forced people infected with the virus to isolate in a government-run facility or the hospital.
But after rare anti-government protests, China started to allow people to isolate inside their homes. Some local governments are asking people to go to work if they have mild symptoms.
Hospitals are reportedly running short on staff, and some sources said workers had been asked to return to their roles if they were not feverish.
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