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China Could See One Million Deaths from Covid-19

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China Could See 1 Million Deaths from Covid-19

Following unprecedented public protests, China lifted some of the world’s toughest Covid-19 restrictions in December, and is now seeing an increase in infections, with fears that Covid-19 will spread across its 1.4 billion population during next month’s Lunar New Year holiday.

Funeral homes in China’s Coronavirus-hit capital Beijing, a city of 22 million people, scrambled on Saturday to meet demand for funeral and cremation services as workers and drivers who tested positive for the novel coronavirus called in sick.

Staff at a Beijing crematorium told the Financial Times that at least 30 Covid-19 victims were cremated on Wednesday, while a relative of one of the deceased told the Associated Press that their family member had been infected with the virus. According to Reuters, funeral homes in Beijing are overcrowded.

Despite reports in Western media, China’s national health authority has not reported any official Covid-19 deaths since the restrictions on Covid-19 were lifted. The most recent official deaths were reported on December 3. The total number of pandemic fatalities is 5,235.

Covid-19 Vaccinations Low in China

As cities across China brace for their first waves of infections, China has advised its 1.4 billion-strong population to nurse mild symptoms at home unless they become severe. Experts predict that 60-80% of China’s population will eventually be infected, with a peak in January, disproportionately affecting vulnerable populations such as the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions.

China’s large pool of susceptible individuals, the use of less effective vaccines, and low vaccine coverage among those aged 80 and older, who are at highest risk of severe disease, are all major concerns.

A wave of Covid-19 fatalities would call into question the Chinese government’s claim that it has handled the virus better than other countries and that it chose this moment to pivot on scientific grounds.

China’s hospitals, particularly those outside major cities, are under-resourced, and it’s unclear whether the country has enough antivirals and other Covid-19 medications on hand.

Disruption to Supply Chains

According to a report released on Thursday by researchers in Hong Kong, China could see nearly 1 million deaths from Covid-19 when it reopens. According to the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, fatalities could exceed one million by 2023 as a result of the abrupt reversal on Covid-19 Zero policy.

With covid19 finally being allowed to circulate freely in China, global supply chains could be disrupted, with waves of absenteeism expected on what is often referred to as the world’s factory floor. Companies ranging from Volkswagen AG to the oil-refining behemoth Sinopec are bracing for major outbreaks.

The lack of reported deaths since the curbs were lifted has also piqued the interest of some Chinese, with users on social media platforms such as Weibo questioning whether fatalities in cities such as Beijing had increased and complaining about long lines at funeral homes.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, reports of long lines and stacks of urns at Wuhan’s funeral homes fueled speculation that the country — under fire at the time for being the source of Covid-19 — was concealing the true number of dead.

The official Covid-19 death toll was revised up by 1,290 fatalities in April 2020, increasing the total by 40% in one go.

China denied any cover-up at the time, claiming that the additions included cases where people died at home without seeing a doctor or being tested for Covid-19. At the start of the outbreak, hospitals in Wuhan were overwhelmed with patients, and the revisions also included late and incomplete reporting from medical workers, China said at the time.

Meanwhile, China has stopped publishing asymptomatic cases, citing a lack of PCR testing among people who had no symptoms, which made it difficult to accurately count the total number.

Official figures have become untrustworthy as a result of the relaxation of zero-Covid-19 policies across the country.

To deal with the worsening Covid-19 infections across China, local education authorities in Shanghai, more than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) south of Beijing, ordered most schools to hold classes online beginning Monday.

Shanghai Disney Resort said on Saturday that entertainment offerings may be reduced to a smaller workforce, though the theme park was still open for business.

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