BEIJING: Half a million people in a single Chinese city are infected with Covid-19 every day, a top health official has said, in a rare and quickly censored acknowledgment that the country’s wave of infections is not mirrored in official statistics.
This month, China quickly dismantled key pillars of its zero Covid strategy, scrapping instant lockdowns, long quarantines and travel restrictions in a shocking reversal of its signature lockdown strategy.
Cities across the country have struggled to cope with surging infections that have emptied pharmacy shelves, filled hospital wards and appeared to cause backlogs at crematoriums and funeral homes.
But the end of strict testing mandates has made case numbers virtually impossible to track, while authorities have narrowed the medical definition of a Covid death in a move that experts say will suppress the number of deaths attributable to the virus.
On Friday, a ruling Communist Party-run media outlet in Qingdao reported that the municipal health chief said the eastern city was seeing “between 490,000 and 530,000” new Covid cases per day.
The coastal city of around 10 million people was “in a period of rapid transmission before an imminent peak”, Bo Tao reportedly said, adding that the infection rate would accelerate by another 10% over the weekend.
The report was shared by several other news outlets but appears to have been edited Saturday morning to remove the numbers from the case.
China National Health Commission said on Saturday that 4,103 new household infections had been recorded nationwide the previous day, with no new deaths.
In shandongthe province where Qingdao is located, authorities have officially registered only 31 new cases nationwide.
The Chinese government keeps a tight leash on the country’s media, with legions of online censors on hand to weed out content deemed politically sensitive.
Most government-run publications downplayed the severity of the wave of exits from the country, instead portraying the policy reversal as logical and controlled.
But some outlets have hinted at drug shortages and hospitals under pressure, although estimates of the true number of cases remain scarce.
The government of eastern Jiangxi province said in a social media post on Friday that 80% of its population, or about 36 million people, will be infected by March.
More than 18,000 Covid patients were admitted to major medical facilities across the province in the two weeks to Thursday, including nearly 500 serious cases but no deaths, the statement said.

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