China: Covid numbers soar in key province - Dispatch Weekly

January 9, 2023 - Reading time: 3 minutes

Covid infection has already spread to about 90% of the population in Henan, China’s third most populated province, according to local health officials.

At a press conference, provincial official Kan Quancheng presented the number, which came to ​approvimately 88.5 million people.

Since giving up its zero-Covid rules in December, China has been dealing with an extraordinary rise of cases.

Rare protests against lockdowns, quarantines, and mass testing were followed by the action.

Mr. Kan could not provide a date for when all the infections occurred, but given that China’s prior zero-Covid policy had successfully reduced incidence, it is likely that most of Henan’s infections took place during the course of the previous several weeks.

According to him, attendance at fever clinics in the province of Henan peaked on ​19 ​December and then “showed a consistent declining trend.”

The provincial data from Henan contrasts sharply with the Covid data from the federal government.

Only 120,000 out of the 1.4 billion individuals in the country have been sick, and 30 have died since the change in Covid policy, according to official statistics.

In the meantime, authorities in mainland China recorded three Covid deaths on Sunday, one more than the day before.

However, since mass testing is no longer required and the definition of Covid fatalities has been reduced, government data is no longer accurate in capturing the full scope of the outbreak.

In addition, information from other municipal and provincial officials has been substantially different from that from the federal government. A top health official in the port city of Qingdao said that 500,000 people were contracting the disease every day on Christmas Eve. Those case numbers were promptly taken out of news articles.

In the meantime, Chinese health regulators declared that due to the high cost cited by the US company, they would not cover Pfizer’s antiviral Covid medication Paxlovid in their basic medical insurance systems.

Since the number of Covid cases in China spiked last month, the medication has seen a rapid increase in demand. It is currently covered by China’s comprehensive healthcare insurance programme until March 31.

Pfizer said in a statement that it will keep working with the Chinese government and all pertinent parties to “secure and adequate supply” of the medication in China.

Beijing also opened its border with Hong Kong on Sunday and abolished the quarantine that had been required for all visitors from abroad.

According to official figures, 34.7 million individuals travelled domestically on Saturday as part of the first round of pre-holiday travel. According to state media, this constituted a rise of more than a third over the previous year.

As the nation celebrates Lunar New Year later this month and millions of people travel from big cities to see elderly relatives in the countryside, infections are predicted to surge.

According to officials, more than two billion individual journeys are ​expected to be made.

DW Staff

David Lintott is the Editor-in-Chief, leading our team of talented freelance journalists. He specializes in covering culture, sport, and society. Originally from the decaying seaside town of Eastbourne, he attributes his insightful world-weariness to his roots in this unique setting.