08/25/2023, 13.49
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China: two million excess deaths with the end of the zero-Covid policy

A study by the US Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center reveals data concerning the over 30s and records increases in all provinces, with the exception of Tibet. No official comment from the Chinese health authorities, who have always underestimated the numbers. Today the “Eris” variant of Omicron dominates with over 70% of cases.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - The sudden decision taken by Beijing at the end of 2022 to cancel the zero-Covid policy with lockdowns and mass tests due to the wave of protests that was spreading in various parts, especially the metropolis, has favored the wide circulation of the virus among its 1.4 billion inhabitants.

It caused about two million excess deaths among the over 30s, in the two months following the end of the restrictions.

This is what is stated by a US study by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, obtained from a sample of mortality data published by some Chinese universities and from internet searches.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of November 28, 2022, China had recorded just over 30,000 deaths related to Covid-19, while the United States, with less than a quarter of the population, had recorded over a million.

The strategy adopted in the first weeks by Beijing, which included tight restrictions, mass tests and strict quarantine measures, ended in December 2022. Since then, the Chinese government has reported about 60,000 deaths due to the virus up to January 12, 2023 .

In fact, at least 1.87 million "excess" deaths among people over the age of 30 occurred between December 2022 and January 2023, well above normal mortality trends in other periods, according to the study.

The experts cross-referenced and analyzed obituary data from three different Chinese universities, along with numbers from search engine Baidu in an earlier phase that ran from January 1, 2016 to January 31, 2023, to assess past trends.

The numbers relating to the over 30 mortality rate confirm an excess in all provinces with the exception of Tibet, where severe restrictions on movement and individual freedoms remain.

China's decision last December to end its three-year "zero Covid" policy, with mass testing and stringent and persistent quarantines, has led to a massive surge in hospitalizations and deaths which, according to medics, have not been in mostly reported by the government.

The study, published yesterday on Jama Network Open, underlines that excess deaths have exceeded the official estimates of the Chinese government which, in January, indicated 60,000 people suffering from Covid-19 who died in hospital.

"These results - explain the researchers - are important for understanding how the sudden spread of Covid-19 in a population can impact mortality".

China's National Health Commission did not respond to a request for comment on the report itself. Global health experts have repeatedly called on China to reveal more data on infections, hospitalizations and deaths, to also understand the evolution of the virus and its variants.

However, the Beijing government stopped communicating official daily data at the end of 2022, while according to the WHO there would have been 121,628 victims of Covid-19 in the Asian giant out of a total of almost 7 million deaths globally.

In a rare move, a Chinese province briefly posted on its website in July data showing a 70 percent increase in cremations in the first quarter of this year, data that was hastily removed.

Finally, last February the top Chinese leaders declared a "decisive victory" over Covid-19 although in recent days the capital's doctors have confirmed again that the virus remains the most important infectious disease in Beijing.

To date, the dominant variant of Omicron is EG.5 or "Eris", named after the Greek goddess of strife and discord, which went from 0.6% in April to 71.6% in August.

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