Almost 250 million people in China You may have caught Covid-19 in the first 20 days of December, according to an internal estimate from the country’s top health officials, Bloomberg News and the Financial Times reported Friday.
If correct, the estimate — which CNN cannot independently confirm — would make up about 18% of China’s 1.4 billion people and represent the largest global outbreak of Covid-19 to date.
The figures cited were presented during an internal meeting of China’s National Health Commission (NHC) on Wednesday, according to the outlets — which cited sources familiar with the matter or involved in the discussions. The NHC summary of Wednesday’s meeting said it delved into treating patients affected by the new outbreak.
On Friday, a copy of what purported to be NHC meeting notes was circulated on Chinese social media and seen by CNN; The document has not been verified and NHC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Financial Times and Bloomberg have both laid out in great detail the authorities’ discussions about how to deal with the outbreak.
Among the estimates cited in both reports, 37 million new cases of Covid-19 were detected on Tuesday alone across China. This contrasts sharply with the official figure of 3,049 new infections reported that day.
It was Sun Yang – deputy director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention – who provided the figures to officials during the closed briefing, the Financial Times said, citing two people familiar with the matter.
Sun said the prevalence of Covid in China was still rising and estimated that more than half of the population in Beijing and Sichuan had already been infected, according to the Financial Times.
These estimates come on the heels of China’s decision at the beginning of last December to abruptly dismantle its strict policy against the spread of the Covid virus, which had been in place for nearly three years.
The numbers are in stark contrast to public data from the NHC, which only reported 62,592 symptomatic Covid cases in the first twenty days of December.
It is unclear how the NHC arrived at the estimates cited by Bloomberg and the Financial Times. China is no longer officially counting the total number of infections, after authorities closed its national network of PCR testing booths and said it would stop collecting data on asymptomatic cases.
People in China now also use rapid antigen tests to detect infection and have no obligation to report positive results.
Officially, China has reported just eight deaths from Covid this month – a staggeringly low number given the virus’s rapid spread and relatively low vaccine rates among its elderly population.
Only 42.3% of those age 80 and over in China have received a third dose of the vaccine, according to a CNN calculation of new numbers released by the NHC on Dec. 14.
Confrontation growing suspicions By underestimating Covid deaths, the Chinese government has defended the accuracy of its official tally by revealing an update to its method for counting deaths from the virus.
According to recent NHC guidelines, only deaths due to pneumonia and respiratory failure after infection with the virus are classified as COVID deaths, Wang Guiqiang, chief infectious disease physician, said at a press conference on Tuesday.
Minutes of the committee’s closed meeting Wednesday made no mention of the discussions regarding the number of people who may have died in China, according to the reports and the document seen by CNN.
The numbers seem reasonable, but I don’t have other sources of data to compare [them] With. If the estimated infection numbers cited here are accurate, that means the nationwide peak will occur within the next week, Ben Cowling, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Hong Kong, told CNN in an emailed statement, when asked about the alleged NHC estimates. .
“Coffee trailblazer. Certified pop culture lover. Infuriatingly humble gamer.”