COVID is spreading much faster in China than health officials feared

The severity of the current COVID situation in China remains a mystery. But according to one of the country’s top health officials, one thing is certain: it’s far worse than Beijing feared.

Zeng Guang, former chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), admitted that “we didn’t expect the first wave to be so vehement.” Time reported Friday. After the Chinese government dropped key restrictions from its “zero-COVID” approach to managing the pandemic earlier this month, COVID infections quickly spread to engulf more than half the population in many urban areas, Zeng said, before continuing to spread. He added that around 17 million people in Beijing – or 80% of the capital’s population – may have been infected.

The stark assessment flies in the face of the narrative pushed by other Chinese health officials who continue to insist the country is not underreporting COVID deaths despite counts and images circulating on social networks. social networks of long queues outside crematoria and crowded intensive care units.

On Thursday, Liang Wannian, head of the National Health Commission’s COVID-19 expert response team, said it was difficult to accurately estimate the death rate amid a huge outbreak. of cases. “Only after the wave can we calculate the case fatality rate and death rate more accurately,” Liang said at a press conference reported by the South China Morning Post.

Officially, the Chinese CDC says only 12 new COVID deaths have been recorded since zero-COVID measures were dropped on December 7, bringing the total number of COVID deaths in China to just 5,247 since the start of the pandemic. .

But those figures have been questioned by international observers who fear the true toll could be much higher. On Friday, British health data firm Airfinity released a study estimating that around 11,000 people die with COVID every day in China, with forecasts calling for infections to peak around January 13 at 3.7 million cases per year. day. About 10 days later, deaths will peak at 25,000 per day, the study adds.

The alarming uncertainty around China’s COVID crisis comes as health officials around the world scramble to protect their own populations from possible new mutations that could emerge as the virus sweeps through the 1.4 billion people. people of China.

This week, the United States introduced a requirement for air passengers arriving from China to produce a negative COVID test within two days of departure or recovery documentation. South Korea, Italy and Spain have also announced new checks on arrivals from China, although other European countries including the UK, Germany and France continue to say that there is no need for new restrictions.

Chinese state media called the measures “unfounded” and “discriminatory” and questioned the motives of other countries seeking to reimpose the controls. “The real intention is to sabotage China’s three-year COVID-19 control effort and attack the country’s system,” the newspaper said. world times said in an article Thursday.

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