September 21, 2023

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China likely records 1 million COVID-19 cases, 5,000 deaths per day: report

A new study indicates that China is likely seeing 1 million Covid infections and 5,000 virus deaths each day as it grapples with what is expected to be the largest outbreak the world has ever seen.

The situation could get worse for the country of 1.4 billion people. This current wave could see the daily case rate rise to 3.7 million in January, according to Airfinity Ltd. , a London-based research company focused on predictive health analytics and tracking the pandemic since it first emerged. The group estimated that another wave of infections would likely push the daily peak to 4.2 million in March.

Scale modeling and graphics China outbreakwhich uses provincial data, shows that the impact of the country’s sudden shift away from Covid Zero far exceeds the government’s tally.


A passenger wearing protective clothing at a train station in Beijing.

Officially, China reported 2,966 new cases of infection on Wednesday and there have been fewer than 10 Covid deaths since the beginning of December. But this contrasts with a growing body of reports that hospitals are overwhelmed with patients and crematoria are being pushed beyond their capacity.

Changes in how the government reports virus numbers are also a factor. China has largely shut down its vast network of mass testing booths and scrapped efforts to include every infection in its daily tally, leaving residents dependent on rapid tests with no obligation to report results. The country’s health regulator has also quietly adopted a narrower definition of what counts as a Covid death – and far more selective than many Western countries use – making it difficult to gauge the true toll from the current deluge of infections.

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These changes mean that “official data is unlikely to be a true reflection of the outbreak across the country,” Louise Blair, Airfinity’s president of vaccines and epidemiology, said in a statement. “This change could reduce the amount of deaths seen in China.”

Accurately capturing Covid status remains difficult around the world, as the focus of coexistence with the virus means fewer countries are testing frequently. The emergence of the transmissible omicron variant led to a jump in the number of infections, including in the United States which recorded its highest daily number of infections to date with nearly 1.4 million infections in January 2022. This coincided with the global number exceeding 4 million, according to Our World in the data.

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