BEIJING: China said the worst was over in its battle against COVID-19 ahead of its busiest travel day in years on Friday, a mass movement of people that sparked fears of a further rise in infections.
Deputy Premier Sun Chunlan, who oversees China’s virus response, said the outbreak was at a “relatively low” level, state media reported late Thursday, after health officials said the number of patients COVID in clinics, emergency rooms and with critical conditions. peak.
But China’s account of an outbreak that has overwhelmed hospitals and crematoriums has been widely doubted since Beijing abandoned strict COVID controls and mass testing last month and unleashed the virus on its 1.4 billion population following protests against the anti-COVID policy.
Some health experts expect more than a million people to die of the disease in China this year, with British-based health data firm Airfinity predicting that COVID deaths could hit 36,000 a day next week. “Recently, the overall pandemic in the country is at a relatively low level,” Sun said in comments reported by the state-run Xinhua news agency.
“The number of critically ill patients at hospitals is steadily decreasing, although the rescue mission remains heavy.” Her comments came on the eve of the busiest travel day across China since the pandemic emerged in late 2019, as millions of city residents travel to hometowns for the Lunar New Year holiday that officially begins on Monday Saturday.
President Xi Jinping said this week he was concerned about an influx of travelers to rural areas with weak medical systems, and made protecting the elderly – many of whom are not fully vaccinated – a priority.
China reported a big jump in COVID-19 hospitalizations in the week to January 15, to the highest level since the pandemic began, according to a report published by the World Health Organization on Thursday.
China reports latest COVID situation in WHO meeting
Hospitalizations rose 70% on the previous week to 63,307, according to the WHO, citing data submitted by Beijing. But in a news conference on Thursday, health officials said the number of COVID patients reporting to the hospital peaked with more than 40% fewer people being treated with critical conditions on January 17 compared to a peak on January 5.
China said last Saturday that nearly 60,000 people with COVID died in hospital between December 8 and January 12 – a roughly 10-fold increase on previous disclosures.
However, that number does not include those who died at home, and some doctors in China have said they are discouraged from putting COVID on death certificates.
Although China’s reopening is proving fatal, investors are hopeful it will eventually help revive its $17 trillion economy, raising bets that have lifted Chinese stocks and its yuan currency to multi-year highs in recent sessions.
“Markets widely expect the reopening of the Chinese economy to lead to a rise in pent-up demand,” Nomura analysts said in a note.
However, analysts warned that a fall in household wealth and a rise in youth unemployment, hungover from years of lockdown, could moderate the reversal.