China’s sudden lifting of strict COVID-19 regulations could lead to an explosion of new cases and more than a million deaths by 2023 according to projections made by the U.S.-based Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation.
The group projects that cases in China will peak on April 1st, when the number of deaths will reach 322,000. Christopher Murray, Director of IHME, said that about a third China’s population would have been infected.
Since the removal of COVID restrictions, China’s national healthcare authority has not reported official deaths from COVID. On Dec. 3, the last reported official death was made.
The total number of pandemic deaths is 5,235.
China removed some of the most severe COVID regulations in the world in December following unprecedented protests. Now, there is a surge in infections and fears that COVID will sweep through its population of 1.4 billion people next month during Lunar New Year.
Murray stated that nobody thought they’d stick with zero-COVID for as long as it did. This was Friday, when IHME projections went online.
He said that China’s zero COVID policy was effective in keeping Omicron viruses at bay. However, it wasn’t able to keep Omicron variants at bay.
Independent modeling groups at the University of Washington in Seattle have been used by companies and governments throughout the pandemic. They used data from the provinces and recent Omicron outbreaks in Hong Kong.
China has not reported any deaths since the initial Wuhan epidemic. Murray stated that this is the reason we looked at Hong Kong for an estimate of the infected fatality rate.
IHME uses data from the Chinese government on vaccine rates to forecast its future. It also makes assumptions about how different provinces might respond to rising infection rates.
Experts predict that 60% to 70% of China’s population will be infected by the disease. The peak is expected to occur in January. This virus can also affect vulnerable populations such as those who are elderly or have pre-existing health conditions.
China’s high number of vulnerable individuals and the low use of vaccines, as well as low coverage for those aged 80 or older who are most at risk, pose major concerns.
According to University of Hong Kong disease modelers, lifting COVID restrictions while simultaneously reopening every province in December 2022 to January 2023 will result in 684 deaths per Million people in that period according to Wednesday’s paper on Medrxiv Preprint Server. This paper has not been peer reviewed.
If we assume that China has a population of 1.41billion, then this would translate into 964,400 deaths.
A second study, published in Nature Medicine July 2022 by scientists at Fudan University’s School of Public Health in Shanghai, predicted that an Omicron wave without restrictions would cause 1.55 million deaths in six months and peak demand of intensive care units of 15.6x greater than the existing capacity.
Yanzhong Huang is a Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow in global health. He said that there were 164 million Chinese with diabetes. This could be a factor in poor COVID outcomes. Eight million older people have not been vaccinated.
Huang stated that Chinese officials now encourage individuals to receive a boost from a new list of Chinese-made shots. However, Huang noted that the government still hesitates to use foreign vaccines.
China’s National Health Commission stated Friday that it is increasing vaccinations, building stockpiles of ventilators, and other essential medicines.