Overall, a report released on Friday said about 18% of the country’s population (248 million people) was likely infected with the virus in the first 20 days of December.
China has seen a dramatic surge in coronavirus cases since it pulled back on its controversial zero-COVID policy following widespread protests in recent weeks. Under the COVID Zero Policy, the country’s authorities used to lock down entire towns and cities if a small number of cases were reported.
Now that these restrictions have mostly been lifted, China has also suspended its mass testing policy and stopped reporting asymptomatic cases.
This raises concerns of widespread infection among people who have had little exposure to the actual virus and who have lost much of the protection they might have received from vaccinations given months earlier. is occurring.
The country’s health system is also ill-prepared by the sudden U-turn in government policy, with hospitals and pharmacies struggling to cope.
Concerns over official statistics
On Thursday, health data firm Airfinity estimated that more than 5,000 people died each day from COVID-19 in the country, and more than 1 million people are likely infected each day.
According to Airfinity, the company’s mortality risk analysis suggests that between 1.3 and 2.1 million people could die from the current COVID-19 outbreak in China.
However, on the same day, China officially reported fewer than 4,000 new symptomatic local COVID-19 cases nationwide and no deaths from the virus.
Conflicting data have raised concerns in the international community, prompting US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to demand China remain “transparent” on the issue in a phone call with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Friday. .
According to government data, China’s overall vaccination coverage is over 90%, but booster coverage has fallen to 57.9% among adults and 42.3% among those aged 80 and over.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has received no new COVID-19 hospitalization data from China since Beijing lifted restrictions. The WHO said earlier this week it was “very concerned” with the country’s COVID-19 strategy and urged Beijing to step up its vaccination programme.
The WHO suggests that the lack of data may be due to the Chinese authorities’ difficulty tallying the number of cases.
The Chinese government has also narrowed its definition of what is considered a COVID-19 death, making comparisons with previous data difficult.