New Covid-19 wave hits China, over 10 lakh deaths predicted in coming days
China on Monday finally reported its first Covid-19-related deaths in weeks amid rising doubts over whether the official count was capturing the full toll of the virus.
The country of 1.4 billion population reported five new fatalities for December 19, compared with two the previous day, increasing the nation’s official death count to 5,242.
The new fatalities were the first to be reported by the National Health Commission (NHC) since December 3, days before Beijing announced that it was lifting strict Covid-19 curbs which had largely kept the disease in check for three years but triggered widespread protests last month.
China also reported 2,722 new symptomatic coronavirus infections on December 19, compared with 1,995 a day earlier. Excluding imported infections, China reported 2,656 new local cases, up from 1,918 a day earlier.
As of Monday, mainland China has confirmed 3,83,175 Covid-19 cases with symptoms. However, Covid-19 cases and related deaths are expected to increase in the coming months as the virus continues to rip through cities after Xi Jinping’s government relaxed strict anti-virus controls.
China’s chief epidemiologist Wu Zunyou last week said that the country was in the throes of the first of three Covid-19 waves expected this winter. Beijing city official Xu Hejian also said on Monday that the virus was spreading fast in the capital.
Still, more restrictions will be lifted, with previously-closed venues located underground, from bars to internet cafes, allowed to re-open, Beijing city official Xu Hejian said.
While top officials have been downplaying the threat posed by the Omicron strain of the virus in recent weeks, authorities remain concerned about the elderly, who have been reluctant to get vaccinated.
Some fear China’s Covid-19 death toll could rise above 10 lakh in the coming days.
China’s lifting of Covid-19 curbs could result in explosion of cases, over 10 lakh deaths According to new projections from the US-based Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), China’s abrupt lifting of its stringent Covid-19 curbs could result in an explosion of cases and over 10 lakh deaths next year.
As per the group’s projections, coronavirus cases in China would peak around April 1, 2023, when deaths would reach 3,22,000.
About a third of China’s population will have been infected by then, IHME Director Christopher Murray said.
“Nobody thought they would stick to zero-COVID as long as they did,” he said last week when the IHME projections were released online.
China’s zero-Covid policy may have been effective at keeping earlier variants of the virus at bay, but the high transmissibility of Omicron variants made it impossible to sustain, Murray added.
Other experts expect some 60% of China’s population will eventually be infected, with a peak expected in January, hitting vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions, the hardest.
The main concerns for China are its large pool of susceptible individuals, the use of less effective vaccines, and low vaccine coverage among those 80 and older, who are at the greatest risk of severe disease.
China has already started to witness a spike in infections since it lifted some of the world’s toughest Covid-19 restrictions this month after unprecedented public protests