China stopped publishing daily Covid figures amid reports of booming cases

The National Health Commission's decision comes as the country's health system faces immense pressure after the zero-Covid policy abruptly ended

China's National Health Commission (NHC) has stopped publishing daily Covid-19 data, amid concerns about the reliability of figures after infections exploded following the easing of strict restrictions.

"Relevant Covid information will be published by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention for reference and research," the commission said in a statement, without specifying the reason for the change or how often the China CDC will update the public with new Covid information.

The sudden halt in reporting of daily infections and total deaths comes as concerns grow around the lack of critical information available since Beijing made sweeping changes to its zero-Covid policy that locked hundreds of millions of its citizens and hit the world's second largest country. -biggest economy. Despite the record spike in infections, the NHC had reported no Covid deaths nationwide for four straight days before stopping data release. Last week China narrowed the definition of death from Covid, only counting deaths from pneumonia or respiratory failure due to Covid.

Last week the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that China may be struggling to quantify Covid-19 infections. The WHO has not received data from China on new Covid hospitalizations since Beijing relaxed its restrictions. The lack of data transparency makes it difficult to monitor the scale of this latest Covid outbreak.

Officially, China has reported fewer than 10 Covid-related deaths in the last two weeks, but the spike in requests for crematoriums has been interpreted as evidence that the true death toll is much higher.

UK-based health data firm Airfinity last week estimated China was seeing more than a million infections and 5,000 deaths every day.

On Friday, a local health official in Qingdao reported the city was seeing "between 490,000 and 530,000" new Covid cases every day. The report was shared by several other news outlets but appears to have been edited early Saturday morning to remove the case figures.

The country's health care system is under immense pressure, with staff being asked to work while sick and retired medical workers in rural communities are redeployed to assist grassroots efforts, according to state media.

Reinforcing the urgency is the approach of the lunar new year in January, when large numbers of people travel across the country.

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