There were almost 2 million additional deaths in China after the end of ‘zero Covid’, according to a US study

Technicians carry out protein tests on the Covid-19 vaccine ReCOV at the Reco Biological Workshop in Taizhou, east China’s Jiangsu province, 23 December 2021.

CFOTO | Future Publishing | Getty Images

There was almost 2 million additional deaths in the two months thereafter China raised it “Zero Covid” restrictionsThis was the result of a US study and thus contradicted official figures from Beijing, which were criticized as too low.

Researchers estimate that between December 2022 and January there were 1.87 million additional deaths from all causes in people aged 30 and over study from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, released Thursday. The deaths, observed in all provinces of mainland China except Tibet, mostly involved the elderly.

China’s strict zero-Covid policy, which has included mass testing, border closures, etc expanded citywide lockdowns, kept the number of Covid cases and deaths to a minimum throughout much of the pandemic. But if the government raised abruptly the restrictions in December rare mass protests Across the country, the virus was transmitted to 1.4 billion people who had had little exposure.

The resulting falling wave, driven by the highly transferrable omicron variantled to a huge spike in hospitalizations and deaths, which experts say have been underreported by officials. They pointed to anecdotal evidence as well as satellite imagery showing this increased activity in crematoria and funeral homes.

The figure of 1.87 million is well ahead of official data from China, which showed about 60,000 Covid-related deaths were registered in health facilities from early December 2022 to January 12.

It is also consistent with estimates by other researchers, including a study by Zhanwei Du of the University of Hong Kong and Lauren Ancel Meyers of the University of Texas at Austin, who found that Covid may have killed more than 1.4 million people in China from December 16, 2022 to January 19.

The study’s estimate, released Thursday, was based on obituaries published by three Chinese universities for both current and retired employees, as well as searches on Baidu, a popular Chinese internet search engine, for words like “cremation” and “burial.”

“Our study of excess deaths related to China’s lifting of the zero-Covid policy establishes an empirically-derived benchmark estimate,” the researchers wrote. “These results are important for understanding how the sudden spread of Covid-19 in a population can affect population mortality.”

The study appeared “close to the actual data” based on the research available so far, said Jin Dong-yan, a virologist at the University of Hong Kong. The way the study estimates data isn’t “scientifically rigorous,” but it’s still an “objective” and “useful” attempt, Jin added.

Jin said the actual data could be a few percentage points lower or higher than study estimates. The university employees benchmarked by the study, most of whom are urban intellectuals, could be characterized by a stronger sense of self-preparation, higher vaccination coverage and more accessible health resources, Jin said. This could be offset since they may also have been suffering from underlying health conditions more often than normal people, Jin added.

“The best approach would be for the country to be honest and transparent and disclose everything, just like it did in previous years like 2018 and 2019,” Jin said.

Overall, China has reported fewer than 122,000 Covid-related deaths to the World Health Organization. In comparison, the United States has reported more than 1.1 million Covid-related deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

Chinese officials deny they have withheld Covid data from the international community and accuse the US, WHO and others of politicizing the pandemic. They state that they are still analyzing the number of excess deaths and will have a more complete picture of the Covid death toll at a later date.

Calls to China’s National Health Commission went unanswered on Friday.

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