China on Monday (December 19, 2022) 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 people reported five new fatalities on December 19, up from two the previous day, bringing the official death toll 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, up from 1,995 the previous day. China reported 2,656 new local cases, up from 1,918 the day before, excluding imported infections. As of Monday, mainland China has confirmed 3,83,175 Covid-19 cases with symptoms. However, Covid-19 cases and deaths are expected to rise in the coming months as the virus continues to ravage cities following Xi Jinping’s government’s relaxation of strict anti-virus controls.
Last week, China’s chief epidemiologist Wu Zunyou stated that the country was in the midst of the first of three Covid-19 waves that were expected this winter. On Monday, Beijing city official Xu Hejian also stated that the virus was rapidly spreading throughout the capital.
More restrictions will be lifted, with previously closed underground venues ranging from bars to internet cafes allowed to reopen, according to Beijing city official Xu Hejian.
While top officials have downplayed the threat posed by the Omicron strain of the virus in recent weeks, officials are still concerned about the elderly, who have been hesitant to get vaccinated.
Some fear that China’s Covid-19 death toll will exceed 10 lakh in the coming days.
The lifting of Covid-19 restrictions by China could result in an increase in cases and over 10 lakh deaths.
Gravitas: China faces three Covid waves in three months (WION)
According to new projections from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) in the United States, China’s abrupt lifting of its stringent Covid-19 curbs could result in an increase in cases and over 10 lakh deaths next year.
According to the group’s projections, coronavirus cases in China will peak around April 1, 2023, with 3,22,000 deaths.
By then, a third of China’s population will have been infected, according to IHME Director Christopher Murray.
“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 in keeping earlier variants of the virus at bay, but the high transmissibility of Omicron variants made it unsustainable, according to Murray.
Other experts predict that 60% of China’s population will eventually be infected, with a peak in January, with vulnerable populations such as the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions bearing the brunt of the burden.
China’s main concerns are its large pool of susceptible individuals, the use of less effective vaccines, and low vaccine coverage among those aged 80 and older, who are most at risk of severe disease.
China has already seen an increase in infections since lifting some of the world’s toughest Covid-19 restrictions this month in response to unprecedented public protests.
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