- China is likely seeing over 1 million infections and 5,000 deaths a day from COVID-19, per Airfinity data.
- China has officially reported 14,285 cases and just seven deaths so far this week.
- Beijing has also changed the way it records COVID-19 deaths, which may cause the low official count.
More than 5,000 people are likely dying from COVID-19 in China each day — in stark contrast to Beijing’s official count of just seven deaths in the past week, according to airfinity, a health data company.
Airfinity’s data modeling shows China is likely seeing over 1 million COVID cases a day, in what it called a “strong contrast” to official figures, per a press release on Wednesday.
The staggering estimates were released just as China’s seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases, after the country loosened pandemic restrictions following nearly three years of strict containment measures.
China reported 3,696 new local COVID-19 cases and zero deaths on Thursday, according to the National Health Commission. The country has officially reported 14,285 local COVID cases and just seven deaths so far this week, despite anecdotal accounts suggesting much larger infection and fatality numbers.
Crematoriums and funeral homes in Beijing and Shanghai are also tending to a rising number of people who have died from COVID-19, the Associated Press, Reuters other Financial Times reported last weekend. There was a line of about 40 hearses outside a Beijing crematorium on Wednesday, Reuters reported.
“China has stopped mass testing and is not longer reporting asymptomatic cases. The combination means the official data is unlikely to be a true reflection of the outbreak being experienced across the country,” Dr Louise Blair, the head of vaccines and epidemiology at Airfinity, said in the press release.
Beijing has also changed the way it records COVID-19 deaths — this data will now only include those who die from pneumonia and respiratory failure caused by the virus. Those who die from other underlying health conditions that worsened due to the virus are not classified as COVID deaths, said Wang Guiqiang, head of the infectious disease department at Peking University First Hospital, at a government press conference on Tuesday, according to an official transcript.
“This is different from other countries that record deaths within a time frame of a positive test or where COVID-19 is recorded to have attributed to the cause of death,” said Airfinity’s Blair. “This change could downplay the extent of deaths seen in China.”
The World Health Organization has expressed concerns about the situation in China, but said it didn’t think the country was “actively” concealing case numbers amid the strain on its healthcare system currently.
“In China, what’s been reported is relatively low numbers of cases in ICUs, but anecdotally ICUs are filling up,” WHO’s emergencies director Mike Ryan said at a media briefing on Wednesday. “I wouldn’t like to say that China is actively not telling us what’s going on. I think they’re behind the curve.”
And the situation is only likely to deteriorate in the coming weeks.
Airfinity predicts two upcoming COVID-19 peaks in China with cases reaching 3.7 million a day in mid-January and 4.2 million a day in early March 2023. This coincides with the Chinese New Year season, when travel typically spikes as people travel to and from their hometowns for the official week-long holidays beginning January 21, 2023.