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New Research Forecasts More Than 1 Million Fatalities In China In 2023

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China’s unplanned removal of COVID-19 measures could possibly increase coronavirus cases manifold and more than a million deaths in 2023, as predicted from the new studies by the USA-based Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).

According to what the group has projected, the COVID-19 peak in China would come around April 1, when deaths would be close to 322,000. That would also be the time when almost a third of China’s population will have contracted the virus, IHME Director Christopher Murray said.

After measures against COVID-19 were removed, the national health authority of China did not report any official deaths from the virus, before which the official deaths were reported on Dec. 3. China has recorded 5,235 deaths due to the pandemic. 

China has in recent months put in place the strictest rules against the pandemic and lifted them, abruptly, in December amidst the public rage against forcible restrictions. Asia’s biggest economy is currently witnessing a spike in the numbers and is deepening fears of another wave throughout the country ahead of next month’s Lunar New Year holiday.

Murray, while commenting on the current scenario, said, “Nobody thought they would stick to zero-COVID as long as they did.”

China’s zero-COVID policy might have been successful in targeting older variants of COVID-19, but the more powerful and highly transmissible Omicron variant could not be stopped, he added.  

Governments and businesses have depended on the independent modeling team at the University of Washington in Seattle during the epidemic. They used provincial statistics and details from a recent Omicron outbreak in Hong Kong.

Murray added, “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.”.

Experts from other areas believe around 60% of China’s population will eventually contract the disease, with its peak reaching in January, targeting especially the more vulnerable populations, like the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions, the most.

The enormous population of susceptible people in China, the use of ineffective vaccinations, and the low vaccination rates among people 80 and older, who are most at risk for serious illness, are the main causes of concern.

Disease scientists at the University of Hong Kong forecast that removing COVID restrictions and at the same time reopening all regions in December 2022 through January 2023 would result in 684 deaths per million people during the time period, as said in a paper released on Wednesday on the Medrxiv preprint server which is yet to undergo peer review.

With China’s population being 1.41 billion remaining without crucial like mass vaccination booster campaign, the deaths could go up to 964,400 deaths. 

Researchers at the School of Public Health at Fudan University in Shanghai published a study in July 2022 in Nature Medicine and forecasted an Omicron wave without restrictions would result in 1.55 million deaths over the next six months and the highest demand for intensive care units (ICU) of 15.6 times more than the existing capacity. 

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