Patients who die with pre-existing conditions will no longer be counted as Covid deaths, Wang Guiqiang, head of infectious diseases at Peking University First Hospital, said on Tuesday.  China has always been conservative in how it counts illnesses, whether from the flu or Covid-19.

But the change in how deaths are tallied will mean that numbers will appear far lower than during previous surges. The move could be an attempt to protect the regime from criticism. The virus is rife across the country after restrictions were belated relaxed following protests and riots.

Despite the claims of low death figures, crematorium workers have said they are struggling to keep up with fatalities. Beijing last week admitted the outbreak has become ‘impossible’ to track following the end of mandatory mass testing.

In most countries guidelines stipulate any death where the virus is a factor or contributor is counted as a Covid-related death.The overall number of cases in China is unclear, as the country has stopped requiring daily PCR tests and many people are  testing at home.

But authorities are determined to push ahead with re-opening, as many cities and regions call for infected people with no symptoms to go into work as normal this week. On Tuesday one crematorium in the northwestern city of Xi’an said they were ‘particularly busy’.

And in the central city of Changsha, two companies specialising in burial clothing said they had seen an uptick in customers.  Beijing has insisted that the virus is under control.


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