Report: 250 million Chinese infected with COVID in first 20 days of December

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About 250 million people in China may have contracted COVID-19 in the first 20 days of December, according to leaked figures from Beijing officials reported by US media.

According to information released by Bloomberg and the Financial Times, an estimated 37 million people were infected with the virus on Tuesday alone. This contrasts with his 3,049 cases that day and official data that counted him 62,592 symptomatic infections in his first 20 days this month. .

The Financial Times, citing two sources involved in the matter, said Sun Yang, deputy director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, was shocked at a meeting of China’s National Health Commission (NHC) on Wednesday. reportedly provided a number.

It is unclear how the NHC reached its approximate figure, as Beijing no longer counts asymptomatic cases.

China has rapidly dismantled key pillars of its zero-corona strategy this month, jarringly reversing its signature containment strategy to scrap snap lockdowns, lengthy quarantines and travel restrictions.

Cities across the country are struggling to cope as a surge of infectious diseases appears to empty pharmacy shelves, fill hospital wards and cause backlogs at crematoria and funeral homes.

A medical worker takes a swab sample from a woman to test for COVID-19 in the Jing’an district of Shanghai, China, December 23, 2022. (Hector Retamal/AFP)

But while the end of stringent testing obligations has made it virtually impossible to track case numbers, officials are narrowing the medical definition of COVID deaths and experts are trying to curb the number of deaths attributed to the virus. said.

In a rare and quickly censored acknowledgment that the country’s wave of infections has not been reflected in official statistics, a senior health official said Friday that half a million people are being infected each day in the Chinese city of Qingdao. Stated.

Qingdao’s ruling Communist Party-run news agency reported that the city’s health chief said the eastern city was seeing “490,000 to 530,000” new cases a day.

The coastal city of about 10 million people was reportedly “in a period of rapid infection before it peaked”, adding that infection rates would accelerate by another 10% over the weekend.

The report was shared by several other news outlets, but appeared to have been edited by Saturday morning to remove case numbers.

China’s National Health Commission said on Saturday that 4,103 new local infections were recorded nationwide the day before, with no new deaths.

In Shandong province, where Qingdao is located, authorities have officially registered just 31 domestic new cases.

The frozen coastline of Qingdao, eastern China’s Shandong province, December 17, 2022. (AFP)

The Chinese government keeps tight control over its media and uses numerous online censors to filter out content deemed politically sensitive.

Most government-run publications downplay the seriousness of the national wave, instead portraying the policy reversal as logical and controlled.

But some media outlets have hinted at a shortage of medicines and hospitals, even though estimates of the actual number of cases are still rare.

The government of eastern Jiangxi said in a social media post on Friday that 80% of the population, equivalent to about 36 million people, will be infected by March.

More than 18,000 COVID patients were admitted to the state’s main medical facilities in the two weeks through Thursday, including nearly 500 severe cases, but no deaths, according to a statement.

‘No historical precedent’

There were signs that medical resources continued to be under pressure as the weekend began, as some local health officials warned the worst was yet to come.

Dongguan’s southern manufacturing hub added on Friday that outbreak models showed up to 300,000 new infections per day, with the rate “increasing more and more.”

“Many medical resources and staff are enduring severe challenges and enormous pressure unprecedented in history,” read a statement issued by the city’s health department of 10.5 million people.

People wait to be seen at a fever clinic at Tongren Hospital in Changning District, Shanghai, China, December 23, 2022. (Hector Retamar/AFP)

The agency also released videos showing IV-related patients queuing outside clinics and doctors sleeping on their desks after working late nights for several days in a row. Did.

A senior Hainan health official said on Friday that the island province would reach a peak of infections “soon”, but in the eastern metropolis of Shanghai, more than 40,000 patients were treated for “fever”. , the state-run People’s Daily reported on Saturday.

Authorities in Chongqing have launched a campaign to vaccinate residents with an inhaler vaccine as the central megalopolis deals with a severe outbreak.

This week, AFP journalists in the city of 32 million witnessed hospitals overflowing with mostly elderly COVID-positive patients and dozens of bodies being lowered into cremation grounds.

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