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China claims Covid wave has peaked with severe cases, deaths falling fast | China

China’s health authorities have said the Covid wave has passed its peak, with both severe cases and hospital deaths dropping rapidly, but experts remain wary of the government’s official figures.

According to the Chinese Center for Disease Control (CDC), the number of seriously ill patients in hospitals peaked in the first week of January and then quickly dropped by more than 70%. According to the data, the number of deaths also reached its highest level this week.

Professor Chi Chung-hui, director of the University of Oregon’s Center for Global Health, said local officials were incentivized — through punishments and rewards — to underreport infections during the zero Covid policy. Now that the policy is gone, they were interested in exaggerating infection rates and underreporting deaths.

“Most international experts are well aware of this – Chinese statistics are very unreliable,” he said.

Cases of Covid have swept across China in recent months, escalating rapidly after the government abruptly ended its zero Covid policy in early December 2022. Last week, a senior health official said that 80% of people were infected by this wave, although this was not clear. where are the numbers from.

According to the data, there were 128,000 critically ill COVID-19 patients in Chinese hospitals on Jan. 5, the highest number for this wave. It describes the peak of cases in hospitals during the Western New Year, when almost 10,000 new cases of severe illness were reported daily from December 27 to January 3.

By January 23, the total number of critically ill patients had fallen by 72% to approximately 36,000.

The number of deaths in hospitals peaked on January 4, with 4,273 cases, and fell by 79% to 896 by January 23.

The CDC reported that fever clinic visits peaked at 2.867 million on December 23 before falling 96.2% to 110,000 on January 23. A similar decrease was observed in visits to rural clinics with peaks around the same day.

The data released on Wednesday was based mostly on inpatients, giving some indication of the severity of the outbreak, but outside health experts and watchers warned it only showed one part of the real toll.

The wave of infections in China hit major cities first, and there were fears that Lunar New Year travel could spread the infection to the regions. Reports from China have already revealed apparent high infection and death rates that appear to be higher than official reports.

With the end of the zero Covid travel restrictions, mass testing, mandatory quarantines and other measures have been scaled down or removed entirely. Data collection systems quickly fell far behind reality on the ground, with fewer than 60 deaths officially recorded in the first few weeks, until authorities updated the way deaths were attributed.

The CDC notice acknowledges that PCR testing has not kept pace with infections. By Monday, daily tests had fallen to 280,000, down from 150m on 9 December and 7.54m on 1 January. Some provinces have put in place systems to collect residents’ results or allow residents to self-report, but the numbers “depended on residents’ willingness to be tested.”

Previously, several provinces or major cities have reported infection rates of 70-90%, but some analysts have suggested that these numbers may have been inflated to suggest places are on the road to recovery.

Professor Antoine Flahaud, director of the Institute for Global Health at the University of Geneva, told the Guardian that the figure of 80% of the total infection rate is “mostly plausible” and in line with global knowledge of Omicron’s attack rate.

“Having said that, translating it into mortality numbers is very difficult.”

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