January 29, 2023

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China estimates that 250 million people were infected with Covid in 20 days

Chinese officials estimate that about 250 million people, or 18 percent of the population, contracted Covid-19 in the first 20 days of December, as Beijing abruptly loosened restrictions that had contained the disease for nearly three years.

The estimates — including 37 million people, or 2.6 percent of the population, were infected on Tuesday alone — were revealed by Sun Yang, deputy director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention at a health briefing on Wednesday, two people familiar with the matter said. with this issue.

One rate said Corona virus diseasePeople briefed on the meeting said the spread of the virus in the country was still rising and it was estimated that more than half of the population in Beijing and Sichuan had already been infected.

The explosion in the number of cases followed Beijing’s decision this month to abandon its coronavirus policy, which has kept the virus at bay through mass testing, mandatory quarantines and strict lockdowns.

Sun’s figures, which were presented at a closed-door meeting, contradict data from the National Health Commission, which reported 62,592 cases of COVID-19 symptoms over the same period. Last week, China I publicly stopped trying to calculate the total number of infections after authorities scaled back testing for covid.

The lack of official published information has led Washington and the World Health Organization to push Beijing to be more transparent about the number of cases, disease severity, hospitalization figures and other health statistics that have been made widely available by other countries.

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in a ChinaIn the capital and other cities, a wave of Covid infections has swept through hospitals, with an influx of the elderly and bedridden patients leaving emergency rooms and intensive care units with few available beds.

However, the country has embarked on shedding its zero-covid policy as the medical toll mounts. Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee announced on Saturday that the long-awaited quarantine-free travel between the city and mainland China will resume in mid-January.

“The central government has agreed to a gradual and orderly reopening of borders,” Li told reporters after returning from a four-day trip to Beijing, where he met President Xi Jinping. Families separated for nearly three years due to the pandemic can be reunited. . .[and]Hong Kong’s economy can be boosted.”

Chambers of business and industry leaders in the financial center have called for months for a full reopening of borders as restrictions on movement hampered the region’s economy, which is expected to suffer an annual contraction of 3.2 percent this year.

The NHC’s official account for Wednesday’s event provided few details on what the country’s top health officials discussed.

But Ma Xiaowei, director of the NHC, demanded that hospitals at the meeting sort out overflow emergency rooms and transfer patients to inpatient departments, said one of the people who attended the event. He also urged medium and large hospitals to receive more patients with severe symptoms, and also urged the promised organizers not to hold them accountable for the high death rates.

Meanwhile, the estimate of 250 million cases has raised more doubts about the accuracy of official Covid statistics and how authorities handle deaths from the disease.

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The NHC reported 4,103 new local cases on Saturday for the previous day, with no Covid-related deaths for the second day in a row. By contrast, Hong Kong recorded 20,460 new local cases on Saturday in the past 24 hours.

China has officially reported just eight deaths since December 1. Top health officials said this week that they had been infected definition narrowed Which constitutes a Covid death, in a move that lowered the general death toll.

However, crematoriums in the Chinese capital are struggling to cope with a wave of dead bodies, and corpses are piling up in hospitals. Visit the Financial Times in the last days.

Several models, including one partially funded by the Chinese CDC, have predicted that the country could They suffer up to a million deaths from Covid during its reopening.

The National Health Commission did not respond to a request for comment.

Additional reporting by Chan Huh in Hong Kong