China’s top health authority has confirmed that the country’s current outbreak is by far the largest the world has ever seen.
An estimated 37 million people in China have been infected with Covid-19 in a single day this week, according to the minutes of a meeting of the country’s National Health Commission. Bloomberg reported
As many as 248 million people, nearly 18 percent of China’s 1.4 billion population, likely contracted the virus in the first 20 days of December, the health body estimated.
The numbers eclipse the previous daily record of around four million and, if accurate, confirm that China’s current outbreak is easily the worst ever seen, all while the official count screams of a cover-up.
Broadcast the latest news about COVID-19 with Flash. More than 25 news channels in one place. New to Flash? Try 1 month free. Offer available for a limited time only>
You suspect a cover-up
Tuesday’s estimated 37 million daily cases are dramatically different from the 3,049 infections that were officially reported and several times higher than the previous world record.
Global cases reached an all-time high of four million on January 19, 2022, as Omicron took over as the most prevalent variant.
The estimate is also miles higher than a recent estimate by London-based predictive health researcher Airfinity, which earlier this week assumed nearly a million people in China were infected and 5,000 people died every day.
Chinese President Xi Jinping abruptly abandoned his controversial zero-Covid policy amid fierce anti-government protests, triggering a tsunami of cases while the official death toll remains suspiciously low.
Officially, China claimed on Wednesday that there had been only eight deaths from Covid since the beginning of December.
But that number does not include Solomon Islands ambassador John Moffat Fugui, who has reportedly died in China amid Beijing’s Covid wave. The Australian.
The statistics contrast with a growing number of reports of hospitals overwhelmed and crematoria pushed beyond capacity. Horrific footage has shown bodies “piling up” outside morgues and in hospital corridors as the medical system buckles.
On Thursday, AFP reported that it visited a crematorium in China and witnessed the unloading of 40 bodies in two hours.
Relatives of several of the deceased told the publication that the deaths were due to Covid. One woman said her elderly relative, who was suffering from cold symptoms, had tested negative but died after they could not get an ambulance in time.
A woman in her 20s said she suspected her father had died of Covid, although he had not been tested.
“He died too soon, on the way to the hospital,” she sobbed. “He had lung problems to begin with… He was only 69.”
A hospital in Shanghai has told its staff to prepare for a “tragic battle” with COVID-19 as it expects half of the city’s 25 million people to be infected by the end of next week.
“Deceased, Dead”: Improvised guardianships deal with the dead
“Dead, dead,” shouted an employee in full protective gear as he handed a nurse a death certificate, his hospital in central China teeming with Covid patients.
In no. 5 of Chongqing People’s Hospital, the main entrance hall had been turned into a makeshift Covid ward when AFP visited on Friday.
In the spacious atrium, a dozen beds occupied mostly by elderly patients on IV drips were cordoned off with red and white tape.
In a nearby room, about 40 mostly elderly and middle-aged patients sat on couches and lay on beds receiving IV drips, some coughing.
A nurse said they all had Covid.
A political death toll
The official death toll also appears to ebb and flow with the country’s political protests.
Jin Dongyan, a virologist at the University of Hong Kong, told CNN that the definition of “death from Covid” was slightly expanded in April this year, to justify the stifling restrictions of Shanghai’s Covid lockdown.
Shanghai was locked down from March to June amid fervent protests, with residents banned from leaving their homes even to buy groceries. Only 588 deaths from Covid were recorded in that time, out of 600,000 infections.
Once the lockdown was lifted, however, the official death toll across the country sat at zero for six months, despite the rise in the number of cases.
According to Dr Jin, these inconsistencies reveal that China’s method of counting Covid deaths is “totally subjective”.
“The death data has been misleading from the beginning,” he told the publication.
The government confiscates the medicine while the residents fight back
Meanwhile, the government has been accused of confiscating medical supplies as residents struggle to buy essentials.
Authorities urged people with mild symptoms to stay home and take treatment into their own hands, prompting a run on everything from ibuprofen to rapid antigen tests. However, more than a dozen Chinese pharmaceutical companies have been selected by officials to “secure the supply” of key drugs for the government, according to interviews with AFP and local media.
At least 11 of the 42 test kit makers whose products are licensed by China’s medical regulators had part of their production seized by the government or received state orders, according to local reports.
The sweeping disease has “collapsed” China’s wider logistics and transport sector. Viral footage taken in China shows huge piles of boxes on the street and packed into overflowing vehicles, indicating a serious delivery backlog.
It adds to already worrying shortages of pain and fever drugs, and raised concerns of a global shortage given China’s status as a global manufacturing hub.
Diffusion of a new variant
There are also fears that a dangerous sub-variant could form in rapid-fire transmission among China’s huge population.
Daniel Lucey, a fellow at the Infectious Diseases Society of America and a professor at Dartmouth University’s Geisel School of Medicine, previously told Bloomberg that “there would certainly be more Omicron subvariants in development in China in the coming days, weeks and months”.
The World Health Organization also sounded the alarm, with Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus telling reporters on Wednesday that more information was urgently needed.
China’s foreign ministry spokesman, on the other hand, claimed that China had always released information about Covid-19 in a “transparent” manner.
The outbreak is of particular concern in a country with low vaccination rates among the elderly.
China has relied heavily on its own vaccines, which have been shown to be less effective at preventing severe illness and death from Covid than the mRNA jabs used around the world.
– with AFP
Originally published as China’s Covid-19 outbreak is the ‘biggest the world has ever seen’