Authorities say eight out of 10 people have been infected with Covid in China since the beginning of December | Chinese

Chinese health officials said about 80% of the Chinese population has been infected with Covid-19 since the restrictions were lifted in early December.

This figure, which equates to around 1.2 billion people but cannot be externally confirmed, has led some pandemic experts to estimate that more than 1 million people may have died – much more than the government’s official figure of around 72,000.

A wave of Omicron cases swept China after government abruptly ended its zero Covid policy last December, it recently lifted restrictions Lunar New Year and the beginning of the Spring festival. On Saturday, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that about 80% of the country’s 1.41 billion people are affected by this wave.

In the week leading up to the lunar new year, the CDC reported 12,658 deaths, adding to the official pandemic toll of almost 60,000, which most observers believe is far below the real figure. until it increases significantly update earlier this monthThe official toll for this wave is reportedly under 60 deaths.

The increasing number of cases in December quickly exceeded the data collection processes. Combined with the narrow definition of death attributed to Covid, the official records soon appeared far below the truth on the ground, and the government lacks data transparency by WHO.

Beijing denied the accusation and advocated a zero Covid policy and its abrupt liquidation. Some health officials acknowledged the data inconsistencies, but said now was the time. focus on health response.

Data and transparency concerns other ways to predict impact of the epidemic.

Prof Robert Booy, an infectious diseases pediatrician at the University of Sydney, said the death toll could be between 600,000 and 1 million. Booy and other experts speaking to the Guardian said the virus is likely spreading far more widely than was accepted before the restrictions were lifted.

“China may have dropped its zero-COVID policy in the first week of December, but it was probably already swaying and failing,” he said. “In 2022, China has lost its population for the first time since the Great Leap Forward – 850,000 fewer people. They will lose at least that number in the coming weeks, many of them very old people who are not fully vaccinated.”

Dr Xi Chen, associate professor of health policy and economics at Yale, said no one has good enough data to accurately measure China’s death toll, but making conservative assumptions that it has the lowest case fatality rate of 0.11% is about approx. He said he would suggest 1.23 million. people were dead.

“Of course this assumes that China has health resources like South Korea and New Zealand,” he added.

Prof Antoine Flahault, director of the global health institute at the University of Geneva, based his estimate on the excess death rates (the number of all-cause deaths above average) in other countries that have passed the big first Covid waves. .

“If you take Hong Kong, you have an extreme death rate these days… roughly 2,000 deaths per million. If you translate that rate to China, you’re down to just under 3 million deaths,” he said, adding that China’s healthcare system is not improving as consistently as systems in other places, including Hong Kong.

“If you take Brazil, the figure has doubled to close to 4,000 per million,” Flahault said.

James Trauer, head of the epidemiological modeling unit at Monash University, cautioned against making predictions so early in the wave, noting that it’s unclear how the CDC in China was able to produce the 80% figure, given the problems with data collection.

The CDC notice said that holiday travel could spread the virus further in the short term, but that “the likelihood of a large-scale epidemic recovery or a second wave of epidemics across the country is very low” as large numbers of people are already infected.

Trauer cautioned against thinking that an Omicron wave brings high levels of herd immunity. “We had a big first wave with BA1 in Australia last summer and then a second wave with BA2 in a few months followed right away. I don’t think they should assume they need to worry as the numbers are down,” he said.

“Probably the most important thing for China right now is to increase resources to better manage the epidemic and treat people who get sick.”

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