Explosion Of Coronavirus Cases, Over A Million Deaths Through 2023, Say IHME Projections

New Delhi: After China’s stringent COVID-19 restrictions were abruptly lifted following unprecedented protests under the Xi Jinping regime, the U.S.-based Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) has projected that the lifting of curbs could result in an explosion of cases and over a million deaths through 2023.

The group’s projections stated that cases in China would peak around April 1, when deaths would reach 322,000. By then, about a third of China’s population will have been infected, IHME Director Christopher Murray said, as reported by news agency Reuters.

This projection comes as China’s national health authority is yet to report any official COVID deaths since the lifting of Coronavirus curbs. The last official deaths were reported on December 3. The country’s total pandemic fatalities stand at 5,235.

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COVID Spike Expected During Next Month’s Lunar New Year Holiday

Beijing lifted some of the world’s most stringent COVID restrictions in the month of December after unprecedented public protests that rocked the capital city with protesters even raising slogans against Xi, calling for free speech and democracy.

The country has been experiencing a spike in infections, now there are fears that the infection could spread across its 1.4 billion population during next month’s Lunar New Year holiday.

“Nobody thought they would stick to zero-COVID as long as they did,” Murray said on Friday when the IHME projections were released online, as quoted by Reuters.

He mentioned that while the zero-COVID policy could have been effective at containing the spread of earlier variants, the high transmissibility of Omicron variants made it impossible to sustain it.

The IHME is an independent modeling group at the University of Washington in Seattle and has been relied on by governments and companies throughout the pandemic.

For its latest projection, the group drew on provincial data and information from a recent Omicron outbreak in Hong Kong.

“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,” Murray said, as per Reuters.

For its forecasts, IHME also used the information on vaccination rates provided by the Chinese government along with assumptions on how various provinces will respond when infection rates rise.

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60% Of China’s Population Will Eventually Be Infected, Experts Believe

As per the Reuters report, other experts anticipate that about 60% of China’s population will eventually be infected, with a peak expected in January. The new surge may affect vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions, the most.

Some important concerns pertaining to the COVID surge are China’s large pool of susceptible individuals, the use of less effective vaccines, and low vaccine coverage among those aged 80 and above, who are at the greatest risk of ending up with severe disease.

According to the report, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, Yanzhong Huang, said that there are 164 million people in China with diabetes, a risk factor in terms of COVID infection. There are also 8 million people aged 80 and above who have never been vaccinated, it mentioned.

Meanwhile, Chinese officials are encouraging individuals to get boosted from a list of newer Chinese-made shots. The government is still reluctant to use foreign vaccines, Huang said.

China’s National Health Commission on Friday informed that it was ramping up inoculations and building stocks of ventilators and essential drugs.

(With Inputs By Reuters)

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