China expects a wave of 37 million Covid-19 infections per day

Nearly 37 million people in China may occur with Covid-19 in a single day this week, according to estimates by the government’s top health authority, making the country’s outbreak is by far the largest in the world.

Up to 248 million people, or almost 18% of the population probably contracted the virus in the first 20 days of December, according to minutes of an internal meeting of China’s National Health Commission (NHC) held on Wednesday. If accurate, the infection rate it would eclipse the previous daily record of about 4 million, set in January 2022.

Beijing’s rapid dismantling of Covid zero restrictions has led to the unrestrained spread of the highly contagious Omicron variants in a population with low levels of natural immunity. More than half of the residents of southwestern China’s Sichuan province and the capital Beijing have come forward, according to agency estimates.

It is unclear how the Chinese health regulator has arrived at this estimate, as the country earlier this month shut down its once-ubiquitous network of PCR testing booths. Precise infection rates have been difficult to establish in other countries during the pandemic, as laboratory testing has been replaced by home testing with results not collected centrally.

The NHC did not respond to a faxed request for comment by Bloomberg News. The commission’s newly founded National Office for Disease Control, which oversaw the response to Covid, also did not respond to phone calls and faxes on Friday.

People in China now use rapid thickness tests to detect infections and are not required to report positive results. In the meantime, the Government has stopped publishing the daily number of asymptomatic cases.

Chen Qin, chief economist at data consultancy MetroDataTech, expects China’s current wave to peak between mid-December and the end of January in most cities, extensive in an analysis of internet keyword searches. . His modeling suggests the post-reopening uptick is already responsible for tens of millions of daily infections, with the highest case counts in the cities of Shenzhen, Shanghai and Chongqing.

unrecorded deaths

The minutes of the meeting did not account for any debate on the number of deaths. They quoted Ma Xiaowei, the head of the NHC, reiterating the new, much narrower, much more restricted definition used to count Covid deaths. He though he acknowledged that deaths are inevitable due to the rapid spread of the virusHe stressed that only people who die of covid-induced pneumonia should be included in mortality statistics.

Officials said Beijing, the first city affected, is beginning to see a spike in critical and severe Covid cases, even though the overall infection rate is declining. Meanwhile, the outbreak is spreading from urban centers to rural China, where medical resources are often lacking. The agency went to all regions to prepare for the next surge in serious cases.

The estimated 37 million daily cases for December 20 is a sharp departure from the official tally of just 3,049 reported infections in China for that day. It is also several times higher than the previous world record for the pandemic. Global cases reached an all-time high of 4 million on January 19, 2022, amid an initial surge of omicron infections following their emergence in South Africa, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The magnitude of the infection suggested by official estimates underscores the challenge China faces after abruptly abandoning the Covid-zero regime, which has largely kept the virus at bay for the past three years. Hospitals in major Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, have been overwhelmed by the remorseful surge in patients, while crematoria are struggling to cope with the spate of deaths.

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