Chinese Province Reports a Million Coronavirus Cases In a Day, Regime Still Claims Zero Deaths

HANGZHOU, CHINA - DECEMBER 19, 2022 - People line up to buy COVID-19 antigen reagents at a
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The Chinese province of Zhejiang, an industrial hub located southwest of Shanghai, reported a million new coronavirus infections on Christmas Day – and expected that caseload to double by New Year’s Eve. Anecdotal reports of overwhelmed hospitals continue slipping past Chinese censors to reach foreign reporters and social media, even though the regime in Beijing continues to insist it has suffered absolutely no Covid-19 fatalities over the past five days.

Reuters observed on Sunday that everyone knows the Chinese government is lying about its coronavirus statistics, and a growing chorus of Chinese doctors and citizens is pleading for more realistic information:

Citizens and experts have called for more accurate data as infections surged after Beijing made sweeping changes to a zero-COVID policy that had put hundreds of millions of its citizens under relentless lockdowns and battered the world’s second-largest economy.

Nationwide figures from China had become incomplete as the National Health Commission stopped reporting asymptomatic infections, making it harder to track cases. On Sunday the commission stopped reporting daily figures, which the China CDC then published.

Zhejiang stands out because its provincial health officials are among the few authorities in China willing to be honest about the size of the coronavirus surge, including asymptomatic cases. Even Zhejiang’s numbers were a little suspicious, as the province claimed to have only 13,583 people hospitalized from a population of 65.4 million, and a mere 242 of those hospitalizations were classified as “severe” or “critical.”

Two cities, Qingdao and Dongguan, are also making an effort to report complete case data, and their number of infections is vastly higher than the national average claimed by Beijing.

Reuters on Monday quoted doctors, including some foreign-born doctors who work at private hospitals, who said the Chinese medical system is completely overwhelmed by Covid-19 cases, and many of them are older, unvaccinated patients in serious danger. 

These doctors said emergency rooms are packed and intensive care units (ICUs) are full, their beds clogged by patients who have not recovered enough to be discharged. Meanwhile, hospital staffing levels are falling to unbearable lows as healthcare workers become sick with Covid-19 themselves. Several foreign media outlets have quoted Chinese medical staffers who said they were told to report for work even if they tested positive for the coronavirus.

“It’s not medicine, it’s politics. If they’re dying now with Covid it’s because of Covid. The mortality rate now it’s political numbers, not medical,” one exasperated doctor said of the Chinese government’s decision to make hair-splitting distinctions between patients who died with the coronavirus rather than from it.

In addition to seeking emergency-room and ICU care, Chinese patients are eager to obtain Paxlovid, an oral antiviral medication that was approved for use against Covid-19 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in December 2021. Paxlovid can ease coronavirus symptoms considerably, provided it is taken within five days of infection. 

“China is entering the most dangerous weeks of the pandemic. The authorities are making almost no efforts now to slow the spread of infections and, with the migration ahead of Lunar New Year getting started, any parts of the country not currently in a major Covid wave will be soon,” said a warning note from Capital Economics quoted by Reuters.

Lunar New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is China’s biggest holiday, and usually its busiest travel season. It officially begins on January 22 this year.

On Monday, the Chinese government announced that travelers from overseas will no longer have to quarantine themselves upon arrival. Under the new rules announced by China’s National Health Commission, travelers need only show a negative PCR test within 48 hours of departure. Until now, travelers – including Chinese citizens returning from overseas trips – have been required to quarantine themselves for weeks at their own expense.

FILE- A woman has her routine COVID-19 throat swab at a coronavirus testing site in Beijing, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022. China on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022, announced new measures rolling back COVID-19 restrictions, including limiting lockdowns and testing requirements. (AP Photo/Andy Wong, File)

FILE- A woman has her routine COVID-19 throat swab at a coronavirus testing site in Beijing, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Andy Wong, File)

Chinese officials added that they will begin allowing more flights into the country, and hinted they would issue more visas for incoming foreigners, as well as more passports for Chinese who wish to travel abroad. Visas and passports were virtually frozen during the pandemic.

The New York Times (NYT) drily observed on Monday that it was “unclear just how soon international travelers would be willing to visit China,” given the massive coronavirus surge.

“The speed, and shock, of China’s Covid pivot was reflected on its social media platforms, where users greeted the news of the rollback on Monday with a mix of disbelief and elation. Some celebrated the fact that Chinese students studying overseas would be able to return more easily to visit their families,” the NYT reported.

This sudden enthusiasm for more international travel and looser restrictions may strike some observers as a cynical ploy by the Chinese government to export its new coronavirus surge around the world, much as it did with the original outbreak. 

Chinese officials vigorously opposed travel bans during the early stages of the worldwide pandemic, using every bit of influence they possessed with international health organizations, but did not hesitate to slap down tough travel bans to protect China when infections were supposedly being imported from foreign countries.

A study jointly published by the University of Macau and Harvard Medical School last week estimated that China could face up to 1.5 million deaths from Covid-19 over the next six months. The researchers suggested fatalities could be trimmed down to less than 200,000 if quarantines, social distancing, travel restrictions, and more aggressive vaccination policies were implemented.


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