According to estimates from the government’s main health authority, about 37 million people in China may have been infected with Covid-19 on a single day this week, making the country’s outbreak by far the world’s greatest.
According to minutes from an internal meeting of China’s National Health Commission conducted on Wednesday, which was validated by officials involved in the discussions, as many as 248 million people, or nearly 18% of the population, possibly caught the virus in the first 20 days of December. If confirmed, the infection rate would far exceed the previous daily record of about 4 million set in January 2022.
The rapid removal of Covid Zero limits by Beijing has resulted in the unrestricted proliferation of highly contagious omicron variants in a population with low levels of natural immunity. According to the agency’s estimations, more than half of the population of Sichuan province in China’s southwest and the capital Beijing have been affected.
It’s unclear how the Chinese health regulator arrived at its estimate, given that the country shut down its once-ubiquitous network of PCR testing booths earlier this month. Precise infection rates in other countries have been difficult to ascertain throughout the pandemic, as difficult-to-obtain laboratory tests were replaced by home testing with findings that were not centrally gathered.
Bloomberg News faxed a request for comment that was not returned. On Friday, the commission’s newly formed National Disease Control Bureau, which manages the Covid response, did not reply to phone calls or faxes.
In China, people use fast antigen testing to identify illnesses, and they are not required to report positive results. Meanwhile, the government has stopped disclosing the number of asymptomatic cases on a daily basis.
According to an analysis of online keyword searches, Chen Qin, chief economist at data consultancy MetroDataTech, China’s current wave will peak between mid-December and late January in most locations.
According to his model, the reopening spike is already responsible for tens of millions of infections every day, with the cities of Shenzhen, Shanghai, and Chongqing having the highest case numbers.