Eight out of 10 people in China have had Covid since early December, officials say | China

Chinese health authorities said about 80% of China’s population has contracted the Covid-19 virus since restrictions were lifted in early December.

That number, which would equate to about 1.2 billion people but cannot be confirmed by outside bodies, has led some pandemic experts to estimate that more than a million may have died — far more than the government’s official count of about 72,000.

China swept a wave of Omicron issues after the government It abruptly ended its Covid-free policy Last December, restrictions were lifted shortly before that The beginning of the Lunar New Year and the Spring Festival. On Saturday, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said about 80% of the country’s 1.41 billion people have been infected in this wave.

In the week leading up to the Lunar New Year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 12,658 deaths, adding to the official pandemic death toll by about 60,000, which most observers believe is a much lower figure. even increased significantly Update earlier this monthThe official tally for this wave is reported as less than 60 deaths.

The high number of cases in December quickly overwhelmed data collection operations. Along with the narrow definition of death attributed to Covid, the official numbers quickly appeared to be far less than the reality on the ground, and the government accused Lack of data transparency from the World Health Organization.

Beijing rejected the accusation and defended the zero Covid policy and its sudden dismantling. Some health officials acknowledged inconsistencies in the data, but said it was time to catch up Focus on the health response.

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Data and transparency concerns have left experts searching Other methods of estimation fascism effect.

Professor Robert Bowie, an infectious disease physician at the University of Sydney, said the death toll was likely to be between 600,000 and one million. Booy, and other experts who spoke to The Guardian, said the virus may already be spreading much more widely than was known before restrictions were lifted.

He said, “China may have abandoned its ‘zero Covid’ policy in the first week of December, but it was most likely already faltering and failing. In 2022, China lost its population for the first time since the Great Leap Forward — a decrease of 850,000.” People. They will lose this number at least in the coming weeks from Covid, and most of them are elderly people who are not fully vaccinated.

No one had enough data to accurately measure the number of deaths in China, said Dr. Shi Chen, an associate professor of health policy and economics at Yale University, but making conservative assumptions that it has a lower fatality rate of 0.11% would indicate that it is about 1.23 million. People died.

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

Professor Antoine Flahault, director of the University of Geneva’s Institute of Global Health, based his estimate on excess death rates – the number of deaths from all causes above average – in other countries that experienced the first major waves of Covid. .

“If we take Hong Kong, these days you have an excess death rate… which is roughly 2,000 deaths per million. If you shift that rate to China, you get just under 3 million deaths,” adding the warning that the system China’s health system has not been as consistently developed as systems elsewhere, including Hong Kong.

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“If we take Brazil, the number is closer to 4,000 per million, so it’s double,” Flaholt said.

James Trawer, head of the epidemiological modeling unit at Monash University, cautioned against making estimates too early in the wave, noting that it was unclear how China’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention managed to produce an 80% figure, given issues with data collection. .

The CDC notice said that holiday travel could spread the virus in the short term, but because so many have already been infected, “the potential for a large-scale epidemic rebound or a second wave of epidemics across the country is small.” very”.

And Trawer cautioned against thinking that the Omicron wave brought high levels of herd immunity. “In Australia, we had a huge first wave with BA1 last summer, and then a second wave with BA2 came right on its heels in a couple of months. I don’t think they should assume that because the numbers are down they don’t have to worry.

“Perhaps the most important thing from a Chinese perspective right now is to better manage the epidemic and increase resources to treat people who get sick.”

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