China could see more than one million COVID-19 deaths in 2023, a report released by the U.S.-based Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) suggests.
According to the IHME, the COVID-19 virus would peak at the start of April 2023, and deaths in China will soar to 322,000, Reuters quoted IHME Director Christopher Murray as saying.
China has reported 5,235 fatalities related to the virus since the pandemic began, according to data published by Our World in Data. The last official deaths were reported on Dec. 3, 2022.
China’s zero-Covid policy may have effectively kept earlier virus variants at bay. Still, the high transmissibility of Omicron variants made it impossible to sustain, Murray said.
Last month, Shanghai and Beijing saw unprecedented protests against China’s ‘zero COVID’ policies. As a result, lockdowns, mass testing, and restrictions were imposed in cities including Beijing, Guangzhou, and Tianjin.
It’s been almost three years since China began enforcing some of the strictest COVID restrictions in the world.
“China has since the original Wuhan outbreak barely reported any deaths. That is why we looked to Hong Kong to get an idea of the infection fatality rate,” Murray added.
Reuters also quoted a report by the University of Hong Kong, where disease modelers predicted that lifting Covid restrictions and reopening all provinces simultaneously from December 2022 through January 2023 would result in 684 deaths per million people.
According to China’s 1.41 billion population, that amounts to 964,400 deaths.
In another study published by the School of Public Health at Fudan University in Shanghai, the researchers predicted an Omicron wave absent restrictions would result in 1.55 million deaths over six months.
Peak demand for intensive care units could become 15.6 times higher than the existing capacity, researchers say.
A senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, Yanzhong Huang, said that Chinese officials are now encouraging individuals to get boosted from a list of newer Chinese-made shots. However, the government is still reluctant to use foreign vaccines.
With the anticipated rise in COVID-19 cases and increasing restrictions, there’s growing uncertainty about the impact on China’s economy.
According to a Chinese state media report, the cabinet has announced that it would lower bank cash reserve requirements and other monetary policy tools to ensure enough liquidity.
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