It includes 5,503 deaths caused by respiratory failure directly due to the virus, and 54,435 deaths caused by underlying diseases combined with Covid, Jiao said.

China has been accused of underreporting its number of virus deaths since abandoning its zero-Covid policy in early December.

Health officials insisted Wednesday it was "not necessary" to dwell on the exact number.

Beijing had previously revised its methodology for categorising Covid fatalities, saying it would count only those who die specifically of respiratory failure caused by the virus.

But this had been criticised by the World Health Organization, which said the new definition was "too narrow".

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had said the organisation was continuing to "ask China for more rapid, regular, reliable data on hospitalisation and deaths, as well as... viral sequencing".

On Saturday China's health officials said the average age of those who died was 80.3 years old, with over 90 percent of fatalities above 65 years old.

Most suffered from underlying conditions, they said.

Millions of people over 60 years of age in China are unvaccinated.