Nearly 90 per cent of the population in China’s Henan, the third most populous province in the country, is now infected with Covid-19, a top official said amid state media claims that the virus has weakened in the new phase of the outbreak.
Henan’s Covid infection rate touched 89 per cent as of 6 January, said Kan Quancheng, director of the health commission for the central region of the province, on Monday.
“With a population of 99.4 million, the figures suggest about 88.5 million people in Henan may now have been infected,” the top official said, adding that the fever clinic recorded peak footfall on 19 December.
A continuous downward trend was recorded afterwards in the major Chinese province, the health commission chief said.
This comes as the official newspaper of the Xi Jinping regime’s Communist Party said in a report on Monday that the country’s Covid situation is now improving.
“Life is moving forward again!” the People’s Daily declared in an editorial on Monday, lauding the administration’s action in combating the Covid outbreak, which it said is about moving from “preventing infection” to “preventing severe disease”.
“Today, the virus is weak, we are stronger,” said the government mouthpiece.
Top health officials and state media, however, have said the actual toll of the Covid outbreak across China has been masked and the country is witnessing a peak in cases.
As of Sunday, China reported a cumulative of 5,272 Covid deaths using a method that has been questioned by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which flagged inaccuracies in the rate of infections, hospitalisations and intensive care units.
Accounts on the ground have said the country’s funeral parlours have seen an uptick in the number of dead being brought in.
WHO officials earlier said China was “under-reporting” the scale of the outbreak and using an inaccurate method to record Covid deaths, preventing experts, monitoring the pandemic and pathogens of virus, from taking stock of the true scale of the calamity.
Dozens of countries have put China on high-alert lists to screen travellers coming in from the country.
On Monday, however, several people queued up outside immigration offices in Beijing, looking to renew their passports after the country weakened its border controls as a part of dismantling its “zero-Covid” policy that had sparked high-voltage protests.
China has asked travellers to submit pre-departure negative Covid tests.
Airfinity, a UK-based health data firm, expects China’s Covid infections to hit a peak of 3.7 million Covid cases a day by 13 January.
“Deaths are estimated to peak 10 days later at approximately 25,000 a day, by that stage a total of 584,000 since the virus began surging across the country in December,” Airfinity said in its latest assessment.
At least 1.7 million deaths are expected across China by the end of April this year, it added.