Home » international news » China was 'under-prepared' for COVID surge, experts predict three waves this winter: Report

China was 'under-prepared' for COVID surge, experts predict three waves this winter: Report

News Agencies | Updated on: 21 December 2022, 10:24 IST

Is the Chinese government losing control over COVID-19 management as the cases continue to increase in China? Epidemiologists predict at least three waves of the virus to hit the country during winter. It is certain that the Chinese government was "under-prepared" as it decided to end its zero-COVID policy abruptly after people held protests across the country, The Hong Kong Post reported.

The Chinese government has so far remained silent on the number of deaths. However, the Chinese authorities have warned of successive waves of COVID infections in the coming months, as cases continue to increase after the lifting of restrictions earlier this month.

Wu Zunyou, the chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, said "the current outbreak would peak this winter and run in three waves for about three months," The Hong Kong Post reported citing state media report of his speech. Wu Zunyou made the remarks at a press conference in Beijing.

According to Wu, the "first wave would run from now until mid-January. A second wave would likely follow soon after, triggered by the mass travel of hundreds of millions of people across the country for the Lunar New Year starting on 21 January."

He has predicted that China will face a "third wave from late February to mid-March after people returned to work from the holidays," as per the news report. The wave is expected to be triggered by the mass travel ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday, which falls on January 21 as people travel to their hometowns to celebrate the day.

Notably, the work in hospitals in China has been slowing down as they face twin problems - running out of beds due to a large number of patients and health officials getting infected, The Hong Kong Post reported citing western media reports. Meanwhile, pharmacies are running out of stock due to an increase in demand and have a scant possibility of replenishment.

People are reporting countless cases of COVID-19 around them, despite the official count being around 2,000 a day, The Hong Kong Post reported citing a state media report. Last week, the national health commission admitted that it was "impossible" to keep track of asymptomatic infections, and it would no longer be counting them.

Experts have predicted a million deaths in the coming months. According to experts, China is poorly prepared for a drastic exit as the country is facing a shortage of strengthening the elderly vaccination rate, intensive care capacity in hospitals, and stockpiling antiviral medications.

According to the projections by three professors at the University of Hong Kong, a nationwide reopening could lead to up to 684 deaths per million people under the current conditions. As China has a population of 1.4 million people, it would amount to 964,400 deaths.

The increase in COVID-19 cases will "likely overload many local health systems across the country," The Hong Post report cited a research paper, released last week on the Medrxiv preprint server said. The research paper is yet to undergo peer review.

Meanwhile, lifting COVID-19 restrictions in all provinces will result in hospital demands witnessing a 1.5 to 2.5 times increase in hospital capacity, as per the study. The situation can be avoided if China gives booster shots and anti-viral drugs to people.

If the fourth-dose vaccination covers 85% and antiviral coverage reaches 60%, then the death toll can be lowered by 26% to 35%, the study, which is funded partly by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Hong Kong government, the report said.

According to the news report, city streets appeared quiet over the weekend in Beijing and Shanghai despite the easing of restrictions. As the COVID-19 cases continue to surge, Xi Jinping-led government is facing questions like what the government was doing other than locking people in homes and conducting mass testing.

Furthermore, how the cases continue to rise if people's movement was restricted all these months? Notably, China has been adhering to stringent COVID-19 restrictions since the emergence of the virus.

Chinese authorities have been imposing lockdowns, travel restrictions, and conducting mass testing in order to control the spread of COVID-19. However, the restrictions were eased after people held protests across the country against the measures.

The government also faces questions regarding the spread of the virus in rural areas and the availability of an adequate number of effective vaccine doses. As per the news report, China's own vaccines have not proven to be as effective as the Indian or western ones. Furthermore, vaccines developed by other nations are unavailable in mainland China.


Also Read: China Covid outbreak: US concerned over new mutation


First published: 21 December 2022, 9:36 IST