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China at risk of 16 lakh coronavirus deaths if covid zero policy is abandoned

China might witness a 'tsunami' of Covid cases resulting in 16 lakh deaths if the country abandons its prolonged 'zero Covid policy', a study revealed (AP)Premium
China might witness a 'tsunami' of Covid cases resulting in 16 lakh deaths if the country abandons its prolonged 'zero Covid policy', a study revealed (AP)

  • President Xi Jinping has clung to China’s tough Covid strategy, tightening pandemic restrictions in Shanghai and expanding a mass testing sweep in Beijing
  • The Chinese officials are chasing the elusive goal of wiping out Covid-19 cases in the community despite a growing cost to the economy and as much of the rest of the world opens up

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China might witness a 'tsunami' of Covid cases resulting in 16 lakh deaths if the country abandons its prolonged 'zero Covid policy', according to researchers at Shanghai’s Fudan University.

The peer-reviewed study, published in the journal Nature, found that the level of immunity induced by China’s March vaccination campaign would be “insufficient" to prevent the Omicron wave of coronavirus that would swamp intensive care capacity.

The study predicted that if the government lifts the restriction, the Omicron variant of Covid-19 could lead to 112.2 million symptomatic cases, 5.1 million hospital admissions, and 1.6 million deaths, with the major wave occurring between May and July.

Shanghai reported 1,487 new infections for Tuesday, down from 3,014 on Monday. No cases were found outside quarantine. Authorities have indicated they need to see three consecutive days of no community spread before they start easing curbs that have kept millions of people inside their homes for more than a month.

The research comes as World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus calls on China to rethink its zero-tolerance strategy, saying the approach no longer makes sense as the omicron variant spreads and the country’s economy suffers.

“We don’t think that it is sustainable, considering the behavior of the virus now and what we anticipate in the future," Tedros said in a briefing on Tuesday.

President Xi Jinping has clung to China’s tough Covid strategy, tightening pandemic restrictions in Shanghai and expanding a mass testing sweep in Beijing. The Chinese officials are chasing the elusive goal of wiping out Covid-19 cases in the community despite a growing cost to the economy and as much of the rest of the world opens up.

The zero-covid strategy--that relies on a playbook of border curbs, mandatory quarantines, and repeated mass testing to root out all chains of transmission -- is leaving the country isolated as the rest of the world normalizes and lives alongside Covid. The increasingly tough measures required to eliminate outbreaks of more contagious strains are also hitting the world’s second-largest economy, with analysts saying it is unlikely to hit an annual growth target for this year.

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