(MENAFN- Asia Times)
In China 600 million people, or 40% of the 1.4 billion population, have been infected by the coronavirus over the past one month while the number will probably reach 1.1 billion in the coming weeks, said some medical experts.
There are disagreements over how to count Covid-caused deaths. However, since China relaxed its Covid rules on December 7, funeral services in major cities have strained facilities.
More than 80% of the 22 million people in Beijing and 70% of the 25 million people in Shanghai have been infected by the coronavirus so far while many other key cities have passed the 50% level, they said.
Zeng Guang, a Chinese epidemiologist and the former chief scientist and doctoral supervisor at China's CDC, said as most Chinese cities reported that 50% of their people had tested positive, it was reasonable to estimate that about 40% of the country's population on average could have been infected.
While China failed to announce its numbers of serious and death cases, Chinese columnists estimated that there could be about 5 million serious Covid patients in the country. Airfinity, a London-based health data firm, said about 9,000 were dying each day from Covid-19.
Cao Yunlong, a biochemist and an assistant professor at Peking University, said the lethality of the Omicron strains was underestimated in China. He said the pathogenicity of Omicron BA.1 was lower than that of Delta but its latter version BA.5, the most prolific one in China, saw a rebound in pathogenicity.
On Tuesday, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China's CDC) said the country had recorded 4,804 new Covid cases and three death cases. It said last month that it would only report Covid cases with symptoms.
Jiao Yahui, director of the Bureau of Medical Administration of the National Health Commission, said on December 29 that there were two main methods of counting the Covid death tolls in the world. She said since 2020, China had chosen to count the death cases directly caused by Covid-related respiratory failure while some other countries included all those who died within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus.
Liang Wannian, a Chinese epidemiologist and the former lead of the Chinese National Health Commission's Covid Response Expert Team, said It is very difficult to calculate the death rate of the current epidemic, which is still in a fast virus-transmission period. Liang said an accurate figure will be available only after this epidemic ends.
Yin Li, party secretary in Beijing, on Monday called on all frontline medical staff to use all methods to reduce serious and death cases in the capital city, but he did not disclose the figures.
Epidemiologist Zeng Guang said the speed of virus transmission in China was faster than expected. Zeng said usually only 30% of the population would be infected in an epidemic wave but about 80% of people in Beijing had been infected over the past one month.
He added that more than 600 million people in China could have been infected as of December 29.
An internal document of the CDC said about 2.48 million people were infected by the coronavirus between December 1 and 20. As of now, the total number of Covid infections has reached 665 million globally while 6.69 million people have died.
Zhang Wenhong, chief of the Infectious Diseases Division at Shanghai's Huashan Hospital, said about 80% of China's 1.4 billion people will get infected by January 22, the first day of the Lunar New Year. Zhang said people should avoid having gatherings with more than a hundred people.
The People's Daily said the Wuhan Union Hospital had received 16,358 Covid patients since December 7,of whom 5,414 or 33% were serious patients. It said 97% of the serious patients could be rescued.
However, a Hebei-based columnist said the admission of 5,414 serious patients in a single hospital in Wuhan showed that China could have seriously underestimated the pathogenicity of the Omicron strains.
In an article published on Sunday, Yin Shuaijun, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, tried to estimate the number of serious and death cases in China.
With the number of hospital beds and some public figures, Yin estimated that there were about 70,000 serious Covid patients in Wuhan, or 0.51% of the city's 13.6 million people. He said there were 48,700 serious Covid patients in Qingdao, or 0.48% of the city's 10.1 million people. He added that there could be about 5 million serious patients in China.
Biochemist Cao Yunlong said it was arbitrary to conclude that the Omicron's pathogenicity was weakening. Cao said the BA.5 variant was actually more pathogenic than its previous version BA.1. He said new Covid strains seemed to be less pathogenic only because of the rising vaccination rates and the herd immunity in the world's population.
As it remains unclear whether any new deadly virus has emerged in China, many countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Japan, have relaunched Covid tests for incoming Chinese travellers. The Chinese government said it would allow more people to travel overseas on January 8.
Mao Ning, a spokesperson of China's foreign ministry, said Tuesday that it was unacceptable that some countries tried to achieve their political goals by imposing travel restrictions on Chinese travellers. Mao said the implementation of these rules lacked scientific grounds and were unnecessary as any places could have new Covid mutants. She said China would launch countermeasures.
In a meeting on December 30, Chinese health officials briefed the World Health Organization on China's epidemic situation, according to a WHO press release . Chinese scientists will present detailed data on viral sequencing to WHO on Tuesday.
Malaysia's Health Minister Zaliha Mustafa said Monday that China had passed some data about its Covid-19 variants and sub-variants to the World Health Organization, some relating to strains that had been detected in Malaysia. Media reports said they might include the highly infectious Omicron BF.7.
read: china urged to disclose more covid dna data
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