More than 5,000 people are probably dying each day from COVID-19 in China, health data firm Airfinity estimated, offering a dramatic contrast to official data from Beijing on the country’s current outbreak.www.medscape.com/viewarticle/986013?src=wnl_edit_tpal&uac=398271FG&impID=5026929&faf=1
The UK-based firm said it had used modelling based on regional Chinese data to produce figures that also put current daily infections in the country at above a million.
Its estimates were “in stark contrast to the official data which is reporting 1,800 cases and only seven official deaths over the past week,” it said in a statement.
China’s National Health Commission (NHC) did not immediately respond to a request from Reuters for comment. On Thursday it reported no new COVID-19 deaths and 2,966 new local symptomatic cases for Dec. 21.
A senior World Health Organization official said on Wednesday that China might be struggling to keep a tally of COVID infections as it experiences a big spike in cases.
An abrupt U-turn by China on its previous zero-COVID policy following protests has raised global concerns of widespread infections among a vulnerable, under-vaccinated population. It has stopped mass testing and no longer reports asymptomatic cases.
Airfinity said its mortality risk analysis suggested between 1.3 to 2.1 million people could die in China’s current COVID outbreak. Analyses by other modelling groups have also predicted as many as 2.1 million deaths.
Airfinity estimates the wave could have two peaks at 3.7 million a day in mid-January in regions where cases are currently rising and 4.2 million a day in March in other provinces.
Cases were currently rising fastest in Beijing and the southern province of Guangdong, said the firm.
According to its website, in 2020 it built “the world’s first dedicated COVID-19 health analytics and intelligence platform which is now the trusted source of decision makers and media globally.”
This week, a leading Chinese medical expert said only deaths caused by pneumonia and respiratory failure after contracting COVID will be classified as having been caused by the coronavirus.
Half a million people a day are being infected with COVID-19 in a single Chinese city, a senior health official Bo Tao has said, in a rare and quickly censored acknowledgment that the country’s wave of infections is not being reflected in official statistics. www.theguardian.com/world/2022/dec/24/chinese-city-seeing-half-a-million-covid-cases-a-day-local-health-chief?
A news outlet operated by the ruling Communist party in Qingdao reported the municipal health chief as saying that the eastern city was seeing “between 490,000 and 530,000” new COVID cases a day.
The coastal city of about 10 million people was “in a period of rapid transmission ahead of an approaching peak”, Bo Tao reportedly said on Friday, adding that the infection rate would accelerate by another 10% over the weekend.
The report was shared by several other news outlets but appeared to have been edited by Saturday morning to remove the case figures.
China’s National Health Commission said that just 4,103 new infections were recorded across the entire country on Friday, with no new deaths. In Shandong, the province where Qingdao is located, authorities officially logged just 31 new domestic cases.
China this month rapidly dismantled key pillars of its zero-Covid strategy, doing away with snap lockdowns, lengthy quarantines and travel curbs in a quick reversal of its hallmark containment strategy.
Cities across the country have struggled to cope as surging infections have emptied pharmacy shelves, filled hospital wards and appeared to cause backlogs at crematoriums and funeral homes.
But the end of strict testing mandates has made caseloads virtually impossible to track, while authorities have narrowed the medical definition of a Covid death in a move experts have said would suppress the number of fatalities attributable to the virus.
Most government-run publications have downplayed the severity of the country’s exit wave, instead depicting the policy reversal as logical and controlled.
But some outlets have hinted at shortages of medicine and hospitals under strain, though estimates of actual case numbers remain rare.
The government of eastern Jiangxi province said on Friday that 80% of its population – equivalent to about 36 million people – would be infected by March.
China is expecting a peak in COVID-19 infections within a week, a health official said, with authorities predicting extra strain on the country’s health system even as they downplay the disease’s severity and continue to report no new deaths. www.medscape.com/viewarticle/986073?src=wnl_edit_tpal&uac=398271FG&impID=5026929&faf=1
In the face of a surging outbreak and widespread protests against its “zero-COVID” regime of lockdowns and testing, China began dismantling it this month, becoming the last major country to move towards living with the virus.
Its containment measures had slowed the $17-trillion economy to its lowest growth rate in nearly half a century, jamming global supply chains and trade.
Zhang Wenhong, director of the National Centre for Infectious Diseases, was quoted in Shanghai government-backed news outlet The Paper on Thursday as saying China “is expected to reach the peak of infections within a week.”
“The peak infection will also increase the rate of severe disease, which will have a certain impact on our entire medical resources,” he said, adding the wave will last another one or two months after that.
“We must be mentally prepared that infection is inevitable.”
Chinese state media Qingdao Daily late on Friday cited a health official in eastern city of Qingdao as saying coronavirus was in rapid transmission stage in the city with 490,000-530,000 new daily infections, which was set to increase at a rate of 10% in the next couple of days.
Nearly 37 million people in China may have been infected with COVID-19 on a single day this week, Bloomberg News reported on Friday, citing estimates from the government’s top health authority.
A Shanghai hospital has estimated half of the commercial hub’s 25 million people would get infected by the end of next week. Experts say China could face more than a million COVID deaths next year.
Cities, meanwhile, continue to ease rules.
More than a dozen global health experts, epidemiologists, residents and political analysts interviewed by Reuters identified the failure to vaccinate the elderly and communicate an exit strategy to the public, as well as excessive focus on eliminating the virus, as causes of the strain on China’s medical infrastructure.
A drive to vaccinate the elderly that began three weeks ago has yet to bear fruit. China’s overall vaccination rate is above 90% but the rate for adults who have had booster shots drops to 57.9%, and to 42.3% for people aged 80 and older, according to government data.
China spent big on quarantine and testing facilities over the past three years rather than bolstering hospitals and clinics and training medical staff, these people said.
The country has nine domestically developed COVID shots approved for use, all seen as less effective than Western-made vaccines that use the new mRNA technology.
The World Health Organization has received no data from China on new COVID hospitalizations since Beijing lifted its zero-COVID policy. The WHO has said gaps in data might be due to Chinese authorities simply struggling to tally cases.
BioNTech (22UAy.DE) on Friday initiated an early-stage study to evaluate its experimental malaria vaccine in humans, the German drugmaker said.
The Phase 1 trial is expected to enrol 60 volunteers in the United States with no history of malaria to assess the vaccine candidate at three-dose levels.
Known as BNT165b1, it is the first vaccine candidate from BioNTech’s malaria project, which will also establish vaccine production in Africa.
The effort is one of several focused on addressing the mosquito-borne disease that kills over 600,000 each year, most of them children in Africa. The complicated structure and lifecycle of the malaria parasite has long stymied efforts to develop vaccines.
After decades of work, the only approved malaria vaccine, Mosquirix, made by British drugmaker GSK (GSK.L), was this year endorsed by the WHO, but a lack of funding and commercial potential has thwarted GSK’s capacity to produce as many doses as needed.
Another keenly-watched effort is a malaria vaccine from Oxford University. Mid-stage trial data was published in September.
No direct comparisons have been made, but some scientists suggest the Oxford shot is a step forward from Mosquirix and provides longer immunity.
BioNTech’s malaria vaccine effort is based on its mRNA technology, which was employed during the pandemic to quickly develop COVID-19 vaccines, by prompting the human body to make a protein that is part of the pathogen, triggering an immune response.
Lalita Panicker is Consulting Editor, Views and Editor, Insight, Hindustan Times, New Delhi