CHINA is facing up to 2.1 million deaths in the coming months after Xi Jinping abandoned his disastrous ‘Zero Covid’ policy, new analysis shows.
The catastrophic scenario could leave the Chinese leader confronting a “perfect storm” of mounting difficulties and a “revolutionary moment” that may spell the end of his rule, says one expert.
The draconian Zero Covid policy saw the population forced to take continual tests for Coronavirus and millions put into lockdown, even if only a small number of people were testing positive.
Horror images showed those infected being dragged off to quarantine camps and even welded into their homes by brutal ‘Big White’ enforcers.
But a wave of protests following a fire in which the deaths of 10 people were blamed on the harsh lockdown led to Xi dramatically ditching ‘Zero Covid’.
China is now bracing itself for the spread of the virus in a population with catastrophically low levels of immunity and vaccination.
According to a forecast by health data analysts Airfinity, the country now faces between 1.3 and 2.1 million deaths between now and the end of March.
They have used what happened in Hong Kong, where a Zero Covid approach was pursued before a wave of infections swept through the population – who had a low vaccine uptake – in February, as the basis for their prediction.
“Our analysis shows if mainland China sees a similar wave to Hong Kong’s in February, its healthcare system could be pushed to capacity as there could be between 167 and 279 million cases nationwide, which could lead to between 1.3 and 2.1 million deaths.”
A spokeswoman said that in this scenario, China could see the deaths occur “over the next three months”.
“Our analysis suggests deaths could peak in January while cases may peak late December,” she said.
The data was produced before the decision was made to scrap Zero Covid on December 7 but “the figures still stand”, she said.
As recently as October, Xi was touting the policy as a “people’s war” against Covid that would set China apart from the rest of the world.
Former diplomat and China expert Roger Garside said the potential deaths present a threat to Xi’s rule, given how closely he has been associated with it.
“The recent protests show that people are fed up with the Communist Party and have lost their respect for the competence of the party,” said Garside, author of ‘China Coup: the Great Leap to Freedom’.
“This is extremely serious for the party which relies on its performance and respect for its competence for the tolerance of the population and that has been gravely undermined.
“Although the protests have calmed down for now, when the death toll surges there will be new anger and outrage from the people who have been protesting.
“All this is set against the backdrop of serious economic downturn.
“I think this a revolutionary moment in Chinese history. I think a perfect storm is gathering and 2023 is going to be dramatic year for China.”
Zero Covid was driven in large part by the failure of the Chinese to produce a reliable vaccine and Xi’s unwillingness to swallow his pride and import them.
I think a perfect storm is gathering and 2023 is going to be dramatic year for China.
China has recorded 5235 deaths and 1.89 million cases since Covid first appeared in the city of Wuhan at the end of 2019.
But official figures showing just over 7000 new infections have been greeted with widespread sceptism and defy the experiences of other nations.
In comparison, India, with a similar population to China, has recorded 531,614 deaths while the United States has seen 1.08 million Covid fatalities.
Airfinity CEO Rasmus Bech Hansen said China has a shortage of intensive care unit beds.
“The biggest problem that China has is that their ICU capacity is quite low – it’s around three per million,” he said.
“People going to hospital with a relatively mild disease is not the biggest concern.
“But it’s if the ICU starts to overflow and we see problems with ventilators and all of that we’ve seen in Western countries and elsewhere over the term of the pandemic then if that starts to happen that’s a problem.
“The only route forward for China is to massively increase vaccination and we’ve seen a six fold increase in vaccinations over the past week and that’s quite positive.”
Bech Hansen said China has approved four new home grown vaccines that target Omicron but only around 600,000 people are being vaccinated each day.
“There’s a lot of people in China who haven’t had any vaccination at all and there’s many who haven’t had boosters.”
Ben Cowling, an epidemiologist at Hong Kong University, said insufficient medical resources to cope contributed to a surge in deaths in Hong Kong when infections peaked there earlier this year.
He has warned that the same was going to happen in China.
“One of the reasons we had such a high mortality rate is because we simply didn’t have enough hospital resources to cope in the surge,” he said.
“And unfortunately, that is what is going to happen in about one to two months time in the mainland.”
Already stories are beginning to emerge of Covid spreading as hospitals face waves of hundreds of Covid patients each day.
“Our hospital is overwhelmed with patients,” said one doctor named Li, who works at a hospital in Sichuan province.
“There are 700, 800 people with fever coming every day. We are running out of medicine stocks for fever and cold, now waiting for delivery from our suppliers.
“A few nurses at the fever clinic were tested positive, there aren’t any special protective measures for hospital staff and I believe many of us will soon get infected.”
A nurse at another hospital in Chengdu said: “I was swamped with nearly 200 patients with COVID symptoms last night.”