China’s decision to dismantle its strict COVID-19 regime may have resulted in nearly 2 million excess deaths in the following two months, according to a new study conducted by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle. The study analyzed mortality data from universities in China and internet searches. It revealed that between December 2022 and January 2023, an estimated 1.87 million excess deaths occurred among individuals over the age of 30 in all provinces of mainland China except Tibet. The government’s decision to end the zero-COVID policy led to a surge in hospitalizations and deaths that were largely unreported. The number of excess deaths far exceeded the official Chinese government’s estimate of 60,000 COVID-19 deaths in hospitals since the policy was abandoned. The study used statistical analysis based on published obituaries and data from the Chinese search engine Baidu. The researchers emphasized the importance of understanding the impact of COVID-19 propagation on population mortality. The Chinese National Health Commission has not yet responded to the report. Global health experts have repeatedly called on China to provide more data as hospitalizations and deaths increased and new variants emerged. China stopped reporting daily death results at the end of 2022. According to the World Health Organization, China has reported 121,628 COVID-19 deaths out of a global total of nearly 7 million. In July, one Chinese province briefly published data showing a 70% increase in cremations in the first quarter of the year. In February, China’s leaders declared a “decisive victory” over COVID-19, but the virus is still present in the country. Beijing health officials recently stated that COVID-19 remains the number one infectious disease in the capital, with the new Omicron variant, EG.5 or “Eris,” becoming the dominant strain across China. The National Bureau of Disease Control and Prevention reported that the proportion of the EG.5 variant increased from 0.6% in April to 71.6% in August.
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