China estimates 250 million people infected with Covid in 20 days

Chinese officials estimate that about 250 million people, or 18 percent of the population, were infected with Covid-19 in the first 20 days of December, as Beijing suddenly lifted restrictions that had contained the disease for nearly three years.

Sun Yang, deputy director of the Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, revealed at a health conference on Wednesday that estimates of 37 million people, or 2.6 percent, were infected on Tuesday alone, two people familiar with the matter said. with the subject.

He said the rate of the sun CovidPeople explained to the crowd that the spread in the country is still increasing and it is estimated that more than half of the people in Beijing and Sichuan are already infected.

The explosion in cases followed Beijing’s decision this month to abandon its zero-covid policy, which had kept the virus at bay through mass testing, mandatory quarantines and strict lockdowns.

The Sun’s figures, presented at a closed-door meeting, contradicted data released by the National Health Commission, which reported 62,592 symptomatic Covid cases during the same period. Last week, China Stopped trying to calculate the total number in public Infections after authorities cut back on Covid testing.

The lack of published official information has led Washington and the World Health Organization to pressure Beijing to be transparent about the number of cases, severity of illness, hospitalization figures and other health statistics widely available by other countries.

In ChinaIn the capital and other cities, a wave of Covid infections has overwhelmed hospitals with an influx of elderly, bedridden patients and left few beds in emergency rooms and intensive care units.

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However, the country is abandoning the zero-covid policy as the medical toll continues to rise. Hong Kong’s Chief Executive John Lee announced on Saturday that long-awaited quarantine-free travel between the city and mainland China will resume in mid-January.

“The central government has agreed to gradually and orderly fully reopen the borders,” Li told reporters after returning from a four-day trip to Beijing, where he met President Xi Jinping. “Families separated for nearly three years by the pandemic may be reunited . . .[and]Hong Kong’s economy can be strengthened.

Chambers of commerce and industry leaders in the financial center have called for months to reopen the entire border, as restrictions on movement have hampered the region’s economy, which is expected to experience a 3.2 percent annual contraction this year.

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

But at the meeting, Ma Xiaowei, director of the NHC, demanded that hospitals declutter overflowing emergency rooms and transfer patients to inpatient units, one of the participants in the event said. He urged medium and large hospitals to take in more patients with severe symptoms and promised that regulators would not be held responsible for rising death rates.

Meanwhile, the estimate of 250 million cases raised further doubts about the accuracy of official Covid statistics and how authorities calculate deaths from the disease.

The NHC recorded 4,103 new local cases on Saturday over the previous day, with no Covid-related deaths for the second day in a row. In contrast, Hong Kong reported 20,460 new local cases in the last 24 hours on Saturday.

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Only eight deaths have been officially reported in China since December 1. Top health officials reported their case this week Narrowed down the definition What is a covid death in a move to reduce the public death toll.

However, crematoriums in the Chinese capital are struggling to handle the surge in corpses, and bodies are piling up in hospitals. Visited by Financial Times In recent days.

Several models, including one partially funded by the Chinese CDC, predict the country could Up to 1 million are affected by Covid-19 deaths When reopening.

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

Additional reporting by Chan Ho-him in Hong Kong

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