China estimates that 250 million people were infected with Covid in 20 days

Chinese officials estimate that about 250 million people, or 18 percent of the population, contracted Covid-19 in the first 20 days of December, as Beijing abruptly loosened restrictions that had contained the disease for nearly three years.

The estimate — which includes 37 million people infected on Tuesday alone, or 2.6 percent of the population — was revealed by Sun Yang, deputy director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention at a health briefing on Wednesday, according to two people. familiar with the matter.

One rate said Corona virus diseasePeople briefed on the meeting said the spread of the virus in the country was still rising and it was estimated that more than half of the population in Beijing and Sichuan had already been infected.

The explosion in the number of cases follows Beijing’s decision this month to abandon its previous “zero Covid” policy, which kept the virus at bay through mass testing, mandatory quarantines and strict lockdowns.

Sun’s figures, which were presented at a closed-door meeting, contradict data from the National Health Commission, which reported 62,592 cases of COVID-19 symptoms over the same period. Last week, China stopped trying to publicly calculate the total number of infections after authorities scaled back Covid testing.

The lack of information released by China about the Covid wave led Washington and the World Health Organization to do so Push Beijing to be more transparent About case counts, disease severity, hospitalization figures and other health statistics that have been made widely available by other countries.

In the Chinese capital and other cities, a wave of Covid infections has swept through hospitals, with an influx of elderly and bedridden patients leaving emergency rooms and intensive care units with few available beds.

The NHC’s official account for Wednesday’s event provided few details on what the country’s top health officials discussed.

But at the meeting, Ma Xiaowei, director of the NHC, demanded that hospitals sort out overcrowded emergency rooms and move patients to inpatient wards, according to one of the people who participated in the meeting. He also urged medium and large hospitals to receive more patients with severe symptoms, and promised that regulators would not hold them accountable for the high death rates.

Meanwhile, estimates of 250 million Covid cases raise more doubts about the accuracy of how Beijing calculates deaths from the disease. The country has officially reported only eight deaths since December 1. Top health officials said this week that they had narrowed down the definition of what constitutes a Covid death, in a move that lowered the overall death toll.

Yet crematoriums in the Chinese capital are struggling to cope with a wave of bodies, and corpses have been piling up in hospitals visited by the Financial Times in recent days.

Several models, including one part funded by the Chinese CDC, projected that the country could reach 1 million Covid deaths as it reopens.

The National Health Commission did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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