An internal estimate of China’s top health officials reveals that around 250 million citizens got Covid-19 infections in the country in the first 20 days of December, reported CNN citing Bloomberg News and the Financial Times. The numbers account for roughly 18% of China’s 1.4 billion people and represent the largest Covid-19 outbreak to date globally, the CNN report said, However, the number could not be independently verified by CNN.
According to CNN, both Bloomberg and the Financial Times reported that the numbers were presented during an internal meeting of China’s National Health Commission (NHC). CNN on Friday saw a copy of the said ‘NHC meeting notes’ which was being circulated on Chinese social media and seen by CNN However, the authenticity of the document could not be verified and the NHC even did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
One of the estimates in both reports was that on Tuesday alone, 37 million people were newly infected with Covid-19 across China. The figure is way more than the official number of 3,049 new infections reported that day. The Financial Times said it was Sun Yang, a deputy director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, who presented the estimate reports to officials during the closed-door briefing, citing two people familiar with the matter, reported CNN.
He explained that the rate of Covid’s spread in China was still rising and said that more than half of the population in Beijing and Sichuan were already infected, according to the Financial Times. The figures come after China decided to curtail its much debated ‘Zero-Covid Policy’ earlier this month which was in place for almost three years.
What is shocking is the difference between the numbers made public by NHC and reported in the two reports. NHC just 62,592 symptomatic Covid cases in the first twenty days of December. However, it is clearly not known how the data cited by Bloomberg and the Financial Times was even calculated. The reason being China is no longer officially tallying its total number of infections after authorities shut down their nationwide network of PCR testing booths and said they would stop gathering data on asymptomatic cases, says CNN report.
The official data of Covid deaths for December in China stands at eight, a shockingly low figure given the surge in Covid-19 infections in the country and the relatively low vaccine booster rates among the elderly. According to a CNN calculation of new figures released by the NHC on December 14, only 42.3% of those aged 80 and over in China have received a third dose of vaccine.
Amid growing concerns over the Covid situation in China, the country defended its data saying that it had updated its method of counting fatalities caused by the virus. According to the latest NHC guidelines, only deaths caused by pneumonia and respiratory failure after contracting the virus are classified as Covid deaths, Wang Guiqiang, a top infectious disease doctor, told a news conference Tuesday, reported CNN.
The closed-door NHC meeting made no reference to discussions concerning how many people may have died in China, according to both reports and the document CNN viewed. “The numbers look plausible, but I have no other sources of data to compare [them] with.
If the estimated infection numbers mentioned here are accurate, it means the nationwide peak will occur within the next week,” Ben Cowling, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Hong Kong told CNN in an emailed statement, when asked about the purported NHC estimates, reported CNN.