Revised figures from independent forecasting company Airfinity Ltd. added 11,000 deaths a day to its December 29 estimate, a jump that shows the staggering pace of the outbreak and the lack of clear information on how it is spreading in the world’s most populous country. The update is based on data from regional Chinese provinces combined with rates seen in other Covid Zero countries after lifting restrictions for the first time, the London-based research firm said.
China will likely experience “a longer and more severe Covid wave”, rather than repeated peaks and valleys, as the traditional festival marked by millions of people returning home to reunite with their families fuels high levels of virus transmission, according to the predictive health analysis undertaken following the pandemic.
“Our forecast estimates a significant burden on China’s healthcare system for the next fortnight,” said Matt Linley, chief analytics officer at Airfinity. “It is likely that many treatable patients could die due to overcrowded hospitals and lack of care.”
Tuesday’s update takes into account reports suggesting that infections have already peaked in some provinces, including Henan, Gansu, Qinghai and Yunnan, he said. Analytical indicators suggest that the virus has spread faster than expected in rural areas, in part due to people traveling for the Chinese New Year celebrations.
Airfinity believes that Covid deaths in China stand at 608,000 since December. Officially, China has reported nearly 60,000 Covid-related deaths among hospitalized patients in the first five weeks of the current outbreak.
Chinese can travel freely for the Lunar New Year, the country’s most important holiday, for the first time since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The annual family reunion ritual involving billions of trips has been cut sharply in the past three years as the government urges people to ‘celebrate where you are’ to avoid spreading the virus.
Authorities estimate the number of trips during the holiday period will reach 2.1 billion this year, double last year but still just 70% of the level seen in 2019.