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Chinese provinces and cities are seeing millions of new COVID-19 infections each day, much higher than the official statistics, with the wave expected to peak in the weeks ahead.
Health officials said there were roughly 1 million new COVID-19 infections every day in Zhejiang, a coastal province located south of Shanghai. Infections in the manufacturing hub of 65.4 million are estimated to double around New Year’s Day.
“The infection peak is estimated to arrive earlier in Zhejiang and to enter a period of elevated level[s] around New Year’s Day, during which the daily new infection number will be up to two million,” Yu Xinle, deputy director of Zhejiang’s health commission, said at a Dec. 26 briefing.
The grim picture presented by local officials came after China’s National Health Commission (NHC) announced Sunday that it would stop publishing daily COVID-19 infections and deaths statistics. The regulatory body said relevant outbreak information would be reported by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a department directly under NHC, for reference and research.
Tracing the Scale of the Outbreak
The actual scale of the outbreak, however, is hard to trace. Evidence that the regime downplays and covers up information about the outbreaks has persisted throughout the pandemic. Moreover, there is growing evidence that the latest wave of COVID-19 infections is far worse than official tallies indicate.
Hospitals and morgues across the country have been overwhelmed following the regime’s abrupt reversal of the nearly 3-year-old zero-COVID policy that put hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens under relentless lockdowns and battered the world’s second-largest economy.
Up to half a million people were estimated to be infected with COVID-19 each day in the northern port city of Qingdao, a local official said at a briefing on Dec. 23, according to state-backed media The Paper. That number is anticipated to increase by 10 percent in the next two days, the official added.
The southern Chinese city of Dongguan also estimated it’s seeing tens of thousands of new COVID-19 infections daily.
“Daily infections are growing on a scale of 250,000 to 300,000 people a day and the growth rate is accelerating. Medical institutions and health workers are facing unprecedented challenges and immense pressure,” the city’s health authorities said in a Dec. 23 statement.
Visits to Zhejiang fever clinics hit 408,400 a day—14 times normal levels—in the past week, a Zhejiang official told a news conference.
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Daily requests to the emergency center in Zhejiang’s capital, Hangzhou, have recently more than tripled on average from last year’s level, state television reported on Sunday, citing an Hangzhou health official.
The eastern city of Suzhou said late on Saturday its emergency line received a record 7,233 calls on Thursday.
Grim Prospects Ahead
Zhengzhou, a central Chinese city home to the world’s largest iPhone assembling facility, estimated that it will see a spike in COVID-19 infections around mid-January. The southern province of Jiangxi and the megacity of Guangzhou, the provincial capital of Guangdong, also predicted similar peak times.
Nearby Anhui Province, however, said the peak may have already arrived, state-backed media Security Times reported, citing local authorities.
Analysts, meanwhile, predicted a grim picture ahead.
“China is entering the most dangerous weeks of the pandemic,” said a research note from Capital Economics. “The authorities are making almost no efforts now to slow the spread of infections and, with the migration ahead of Lunar New Year getting started, any parts of the country not currently in a major COVID wave will be soon.”
Enormous Strain on Health System
The massive outbreaks came as the regime scrapped its zero-COVID policies on Dec. 7 in the face of public protests and a widening outbreak.
“Our country’s new coronavirus epidemic prevention and control is facing new situations and new tasks,” the state-run Xinhua news agency cited Xi Jinping as saying on Dec. 26. The Chinese leader’s remarks on public health marked one of his first references to China’s recent policy shift.
China’s abrupt retreat from the draconian policy left its under-prepared health care system under enormous strain, with staff being asked to work while sick and rural communities re-hiring retired medical workers to help grass-root efforts, according to state media.
Bolstering the urgency of the situation is the approach of the Lunar New Year in January, when huge numbers of people return home.
Reuters contributed to this report. Article cross-posted from our premium news partners at The Epoch Times.
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