China’s COVID-19 Outbreak to Peak At 11 Million New Weekly Cases
China lifted its Zero COVID policy restrictions in December 2022.

China will report around 11 million COVID-19 cases per week in June in its second major outbreak, data research firm Airfinity predicts. The current outbreak is caused by the XBB variant of the virus.  

This outbreak will be much smaller than the numbers reported during the first wave in late 2022, immediately after the country dropped its  “Zero COVID” policy.  

“Our modelling estimates the wave will peak at the beginning of June at around 11 million per week, with 112 million people being infected during this resurgence,” Airfinity said. 

This number is significantly lower than the figure suggested by Chinese pulmonologist Dr Nanshan Zhong who recently stated that the number of new COVID-19 infections in China could reach 65 million per week by the end of June.

Airfinity pointed out that the reason for this difference could be that its model indicates only symptomatic cases, while Zhong’s prediction possibly includes asymptomatic cases too. 

This is the first reinfection wave in China after the government scraped away the “Zero COVID” policy. Researchers have further stated that, moving forward, China will witness an infection cycle every six months with newer variants of the virus emerging,” according to the independent health analytics company.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), China had 5829 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the last seven days. However, this data is unlikely to reflect the correct picture since China stopped mass testing for COVID-19 last year when it abandoned its “Zero COVID” policy after mass protests. 

“We expect the second wave in China to be smaller and less severe than its first despite the impact of the new XBB variant. This is due to China experiencing a large wave around six months ago which provided protection to millions, booster uptake increasing since the last wave, and anecdotal evidence from the country does not suggest hospitals and morgues being overwhelmed as they were during the last wave,” said Dr Tishya Venkatraman, Airfinity’s COVID-19 epidemiologist, in a statement. 

“Even though the ongoing wave is likely to be smaller, it could still lead to a large number of deaths because of the size of China’s ageing population. We have seen this in Japan where the latest wave caused a significant number of deaths despite having high vaccine coverage and underlying population immunity from previous waves.”

China abandoned its “zero COVID” policy in December 2022 after the country saw widespread protests from people against the strict policy measures. Until then, people who have COVID-19 and their close contacts were forced to go to quarantine camps. 

Image Credits: Photo by Joshua Fernandez on Unsplash.

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