China is likely experiencing 1 million new COVID-19 cases and 5,000 deaths from the virus every day, as it grapples with what is expected to be the biggest outbreak of the disease the world has ever seen, a new analysis showed.
However, the situation could get even worse for the country of 1.4 billion people.
The number of daily cases might rise to 3.7 million next month, UK-based Airfinity Ltd said.
Photo: EPA-EFE / XINHUA / ZOU JINGYI
There would likely be another surge of cases that would push the daily peak to 4.2 million in March, the analytics company said.
Its modeling of the scale and toll of China’s outbreak, which uses provincial data, showed that the impact of the country’s abrupt pivot away from its “zero COVID-19” policy far exceeds the Chinese government’s tally.
Officially, China reported 2,966 new cases on Wednesday.
There have been fewer than 10 officially recognized COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of this month.
However, that contrasts with a growing chorus of reports that hospitals are being overwhelmed with patients and crematoriums are being pushed well beyond their capacity.
Changes to how the government reports virus figures is also a factor. China has largely shut down its vast network of mass-testing booths and scrapped efforts to include every single infection in the daily tally, leaving residents to rely on rapid tests with no obligation to report the results.
The country’s health regulator also quietly adopted a narrower definition for what is considered a COVID-19 death — and much more selective than what many Western nations use — making it difficult to gauge the real toll from the deluge of infections.
These changes mean “the official data is unlikely to be a true reflection of the outbreak being experienced across the country,” Airfinity vaccines and epidemiology head Louise Blair said in a statement. “This change could downplay the extent of deaths seen in China.”
Accurately capturing the COVID-19 situation remains difficult across the world, as a pivot to living with the virus means fewer countries test frequently.
The emergence last year of the highly transmissible Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 sparked a jump in infections, including in the US, which posted its highest daily case count to date at nearly 1.4 million infections in January.
That coincided with the global number exceeding 4 million, Our World in Data figures showed.
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