HomeInternational NewsChina’s daily COVID infections hit a peak of over 7 million at the end of December, but probably vastly undercounted

China’s daily COVID infections hit a peak of over 7 million at the end of December, but probably vastly undercounted

China’s daily COVID infections hit a peak of over 7 million at the end of December, but probably vastly undercounted

China’s daily new COVID-19 infections hit a peak of more than 7 million per day around Dec. 22, while deaths reached a daily peak of more than 4,000 on Jan. 4, the country’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday.

The figures, published on the centre’s website, come after a prominent government scientist said over the weekend that 80 per cent of China’s 1.4 billion population have already been infected, making the less possibility of a big COVID-19 rebound over the next two or three months.

“Around Dec. 22, 2022, the number of infected people and the number of fever outpatient consultations reached a peak,” it said with the number of new infections “exceeding 7 million per day and the number of daily fever outpatient consultations peaking at 2.867 million.”

China has passed the peak of COVID patients in fever clinics, emergency rooms and with critical conditions, a National Health Commission official said last week.

Nearly 60,000 people with COVID had died in hospital as of Jan. 12, roughly a month after China abruptly dismantled its strict zero-COVID policy, according to government data.

But some experts said that figure probably vastly undercounts the full impact, as it excludes those who die at home and because many doctors have said they are discouraged from citing COVID as a cause of death.

China’s narrow criteria for identifying deaths caused by COVID-19 will underestimate the true toll of the pandemic’s current wave there and could make it harder to communicate the best ways for people to protect themselves, foreign health experts warn.

Only deaths caused by pneumonia and respiratory failure after contracting COVID will be classified as having been caused by the coronavirus, a leading Chinese medical expert said the end of 2022.

Deaths from complications at other sites in the body, including underlying conditions made worse by the virus, would be excluded from the official toll, said Wang Guiqiang, head of the infectious disease department at Peking University First Hospital.

Experts familiar with hospital protocols in China told Reuters that such cases were not always excluded previously, though sometimes COVID would be ruled out as a cause of death if a formerly positive patient had tested negative a day or two before dying.

The methods for counting COVID deaths have varied across countries in the nearly three years since the pandemic began.

Yet disease experts outside of China say this specific approach would miss several other widely recognised types of potentially fatal COVID complications, from blood clots to heart attacks as well as sepsis and kidney failure.

A study published by the Lancet in April, which looked at COVID-related mortality in 74 countries and territories over 2020-2021, estimated there were 17,900 excess deaths in China over the period, compared to an official death toll of 4,820.

Globally, the study estimated 18.2 million excess deaths in 2021-2022, compared with reported COVID deaths of 5.94 million.

Dr. Mai He, a pathologist at Washington University in St. Louis who was involved in the Wuhan study published in 2020, said there was still a lack of faith in the integrity of China’s numbers.

“The persistent critical issue is a lack of transparency; people cannot use their data to do research and analysis, (or) provide guidance for the next step,” he said.

The lack of trust in China’s statistics is also causing panic among members of the public, said Victoria Fan, senior fellow in global health at the Center for Global Development.

“It’s in the best interest of the government to be more transparent, because a lot of the behaviors that the public is exhibiting is because they don’t have information,” she said.

This article was reported by Reuters.