China Stops Issuing Daily Covid Data Ahead of Outbreak’s Peak

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HONG KONG — China’s central health authority has stopped releasing daily Covid-19 data, a three-year effort that has attracted criticism for grossly under-reporting the surge in infections now sweeping the country. finished.

In a one-line announcement on Sunday, China’s National Health Commission said it would not issue daily reports on Covid infections and deaths. It said it would be released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but did not provide further information.

In its final daily report on Saturday, the commission said there were more than 4,100 cases of localized infection recorded the previous day and no deaths.

Doubts about the reliability of China’s health data have persisted for years, but the gap between official figures and anecdotal evidence of a surge in infections in the field is widening. Markets are full and many big city pharmacies are running out of fever and cold medicine as people get sick, reports The Wall Street Journal.

“We just don’t have reliable data to report,” said Ben Cowling, an epidemiologist at the University of Hong Kong, noting Beijing’s decision to suspend widespread virus testing this month. The lack of data means authorities cannot predict exactly when infections will peak, which hinders their ability to devise appropriate measures to respond, he said.

In early December, Chinese leaders claimed the virus had evolved to be less deadly than when it first emerged in the city of Wuhan nearly three years ago, prompting the outbreak to be quickly identified, quarantined and controlled. and abruptly abandoned the so-called zero Covid restrictions that were meant to quell.

Beijing’s Covid response task force, led by the city’s Communist Party secretary, said Friday that the country’s capital must take all steps to increase the proportion of people who have recovered from the coronavirus and reduce the death toll.

After authorities lifted most of the restrictions, Covid-19 cases in China surged, prompting residents to self-isolate and stockpile drugs. I will report on the risks involved in reopening the economy.Photo: Xiaoyu Yin/Reuters

Governments in Zhejiang, Hainan, Jiangxi, Anhui and several provinces, including the city of Qingdao, said localized outbreaks will peak in the next few days.

Daily infections in the eastern coastal region of Zhejiang province, a major hub for Chinese tech startups and home to e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.

, has surpassed 1 million, based on estimates from community sampling, said Yu Xinle, deputy director of the provincial health agency. In the region, home to about 65 million people, he expects the outbreak to level off at about 2 million cases a day for the week around New Year’s Eve, Yu said Sunday.

The southern city of Dongguan, a well-known export-oriented manufacturing center, sees an estimated 250,000 to 300,000 new infections each day, according to a state-run newspaper report posted on social media by the city’s health officials on Friday. Nearly half of the 3,000 people working at hospitals have been infected, and as of Thursday, more than 2,500 health workers working for authorities had reported to work despite having a fever or testing positive. said the report.

In the northeastern city of Qingdao, between 490,000 and 530,000 people are infected per day, and the number is expected to rise by 10% per day over the weekend, said local health official Bo Tao. He said in an interview with the state broadcaster. Qingdao TV.

In the absence of reliable infection numbers, some local health officials are turning to proxy data to gauge the impact of infections.

The number of people seeking treatment at some of Jiangxi’s top hospitals and clinics increased by more than 20% per day between Dec. 9 and 22, the local government said in a social media post on Friday. said in

State officials said they expected the outbreak to peak by early January and last about three months before the general infection rate reached nearly 80%. No related deaths have been reported and hospitals are not overwhelmed, he added.

A makeshift Covid-19 clinic in Beijing.


Chen Zonghao/Zuma Press

Hefei, capital of eastern Anhui province and home to Volkswagen’s automobile plant AG

and NIO Ltd,

The outbreak is expected to peak around Christmas. Most of the province will reach a peak in Covid cases by the end of this month, according to an announcement on social media by the Anhui provincial government. On Friday, the NHC reported he had no Covid cases in Anhui province, home to about 61 million people.

Factories and businesses across China have entered new territory as large numbers of workers are out on sick leave. To deal with absenteeism, some factories have shortened work shifts and cities have issued guidelines that allow people to return to work even if they test positive or have mild symptoms. Shanghai authorities said on Saturday that the city’s 25 million residents do not need to be quarantined at home for more than seven days, even if they have tested positive.

For nearly three years, China has deployed some of the strictest measures in the world to contain the Covid virus. This includes massive lockdowns (sometimes covering entire cities for months) and mass testing and mandatory quarantines in large government-run isolation centers. The government reversed its policy in early December as it proved impossible to control the highly contagious new variant of the virus.

After initially abandoning almost all testing, we stopped recording asymptomatic cases. This has led to a plunge in the number of daily Covid infections at the same time public health experts say a huge exit wave is inevitable.

What is unclear is the toll that Beijing’s transformation will take on a population that has had little exposure to the virus and lacks the widespread protection from Covid’s worst effects achieved by populations in many developed countries.

Please contact Selina Cheng at [email protected].

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