China could see 1.6 mn Covid deaths if curbs are lifted

China’s government remains committed to a zero-Covid policy, employing resource intensive mass testing and case surveillance, and enforcing lockdowns, strict quarantine and isolation. A speech last week by the president Xi Jinping reaffirmed the commitment, despite the challenge posed by the Omicron variant which has already overwhelmed other countries’ zero-Covid policies.

The lifting of zero-Covid policies in China would see a “tsunami” of infections and almost 1.6 million deaths, a study claims, citing in part China’s low vaccination rate among elderly residents, The Guardian reported.

China’s government remains committed to a zero-Covid policy, employing resource intensive mass testing and case surveillance, and enforcing lockdowns, strict quarantine and isolation. A speech last week by the president Xi Jinping reaffirmed the commitment, despite the challenge posed by the Omicron variant which has already overwhelmed other countries’ zero-Covid policies.

The peer reviewed study by Shanghai’s Fudan University, published in the Nature journal, said a decision by Chinese authorities to lift such measures could see more than 112 million symptomatic cases of Covid-19, five million hospitalisations, and 1.55 million deaths.

MS Education Academy
“We find that the level of immunity induced by the March 2022 vaccination campaign would be insufficient to prevent an Omicron wave that would result in exceeding critical care capacity with a projected intensive care unit peak demand of 15.6 times the existing capacity,” the paper said, The Guardian reported.

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However it also said that with access to vaccines and antivirals and “maintaining implementation of non-pharmaceutical interventions”, authorities could prevent the health system being overwhelmed. It suggested these factors could be more of a focus in future policies.

Health experts agree, but China analysts are also concerned the authorities have backed themselves into a corner with no political exit ramp for the policy without admitting failure, The Guardian reported.