China estimates 250mn people have caught Covid in 20 days

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Chinese officials estimate that about 250 million people, or 18% of the population, were infected with Covid-19 in the first 20 days of December.

The estimate, which includes 37 million people infected on Tuesday alone, or 2.6% of the population, was revealed by Sun Yang, deputy director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, at a health briefing Wednesday, according to two people familiar with the matter. I was. Familiar with the matter.

The Sun said the prevalence of Covid in the country was still rising, estimating that more than half of the population in Beijing and Sichuan had already been infected, people briefed at the meeting said. .

The surge in cases follows Beijing’s decision earlier this month to abandon its previous “Covid-zero” policy that kept the virus at bay through mass testing, mandatory quarantines and strict lockdowns.

Sun’s figures, provided at a closed-door meeting, contrasted with data released by the National Health Commission, which reported just 62,592 symptomatic Covid cases over the same period. China publicly stopped trying to tally the total number of infections after authorities scaled back Covid testing last week.

The lack of information released by China about the Covid wave has prompted Washington and the World Health Organization to be more transparent about case numbers, disease severity, hospitalizations and other health statistics that are made widely available by other countries. urged Beijing to increase .

A wave of Covid infections has overwhelmed hospitals in China’s capital and other cities, flooding the elderly and bedridden patients, with few beds available in emergency and intensive care units.

The NHC’s official account of Wednesday’s event provided few details about what the country’s top health officials discussed.

But at the meeting, NHC Director General Ma Xiaowei called on hospitals to clean up their overcrowded emergency rooms and move patients to inpatient units, according to one of the officials who attended the meeting. He also urged medium and large hospitals to take in more critically ill patients and promised regulators not to be held accountable for the rising fatality rate.

Meanwhile, an estimate of 250 million Covid cases raises further questions about the accuracy of how Beijing accounts for deaths from the disease. The country has officially reported only eight deaths since December 1. Top health officials said this week they had narrowed the definition of what constitutes a death from Covid, reducing the number of deaths in the general public.

But crematoria in the Chinese capital have struggled to deal with the surging number of corpses, and corpses piled up in hospitals recently visited by the Financial Times.

Several models, including one funded in part by China’s CDC, predict that the country could result in up to 1 million Covid deaths during its reopening.

The National Health Board did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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