Cases of Covid are on the rise in China, following the government’s decision earlier this month to suddenly relax strict Covid mitigation policies.
According to the minutes of an internal meeting of China’s National Health Commission, about 248 million people in the country were infected with Covid in the first 20 days of December. Bloomberg News announced on Friday. This means that 37 million people are exposed to the virus every day.
Modelers predict the country will see about a million deaths in the coming months if it continues on its current path, according to a preprint paper published this month. medRxiv.
“However, the next few months are very likely to be very difficult for China,” said Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, a global health research institute at the University of Washington. he said in a video earlier this month. “The world’s most at-risk populations are those who have avoided many transmissions and those who have gaps in the vaccine. And that is precisely the case of China.”
China’s strategy in dealing with the virus in recent years has been to keep cases as close to zero as possible by imposing strict lockdowns, travel restrictions, workplace closures and daily testing, even as much of the rest of the world has returned to normal life. . The policy, known as Zero-Covid, has kept the country’s deaths low at around 5,200 (compared to 1.1 million in the United States), although doubts have been raised about the country’s official figures.
Mass protests against the cuts have intensified, with protesters saying they have slowed economic growth and pushed millions into poverty, writes Suzanne Sataline. Smithsonian Magazine. Earlier this month, the country began to dismantle its zero-Covid policy.
But China’s population is vulnerable. A “large portion” of people over 80 have not been vaccinated, Murray says in the video. As of Nov. 28, 65.8 percent of those over 80 had initial shots, but of that group, only 40 percent received a booster on Nov. 11. Only 56% of the total Chinese population has received three doses of the vaccine.
According to the preprint, removing restrictions in all provinces at the same time could lead the country to exceed the capacity of hospitals by 1.5 to 2.5 times.
China has developed nine COVID vaccines approved for use in the country, but none have been updated to target the Omicron variant, Reuters’ Thomas Peter and Alessandro Diviggiano report. The Chinese shots are not mRNA vaccines like Pfizer and Modern, but made from an inactive form of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The country has also changed the way it counts Covid, with only a handful of official deaths since lifting restrictions. Only deaths caused directly by respiratory failure are counted, officials said. On Monday, officials reported two deaths, the first since early December. On Tuesday, the country announced five more.
However, crematoria and funeral homes are struggling to keep up with demand, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports. An employee at a funeral business in the city of Shenyang told the publication that the bodies were left unburied for five days because the crematoria are “completely full”.
“It is three or four times more crowded than in previous years. We’re cremating more than 40 bodies a day, compared to only a dozen before,” a worker in Guangzhou told AFP. Asked if the deaths were related to Covid, a Chongqing crematorium worker told the publication: “We’re not sure.. . you have to ask the people in charge.”
The rise in cases has led to fever medications and pain relievers. The price of ibuprofen has quadrupled in an eastern Chinese city, forcing it to sell individual pills, David Pierson, Isabelle Qian, Olivia Wang and Tiffany May report. New York Times.
Researchers say steps can be taken to reduce deaths, including increased vaccinations, reimposing some travel restrictions and widespread masking, he wrote. New Nature‘Smriti Mallapaty. If 85 percent of the population receives a fourth dose that is different from the previous shots, and if antiviral drug use is increased, deaths could be reduced by up to 35 percent, the preprint suggests.
“It’s never too late to flatten the curve,” said Xi Chen, an economist at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, who studies China’s public health system. New Nature.