Xi Losing Control: China Grappling With Alarming Rise In Covid Cases

Xi Losing Control: China Grappling With Alarming Rise In Covid Cases

by Swarajya Staff - Tuesday, December 20, 2022 06:07 PM IST
Xi Losing Control: China Grappling With Alarming Rise In Covid CasesCovid-19 cases rising alarmingly in China.
  • The unofficial anecdotes and research claim that 40 per cent of the Beijing population, around 23 million, is infected.

    Chinese dailies, however, are promising normalcy by Feburary.

Damned if you do, damned if you do not. 

President Xi Jinping’s excessive controls are coming back to haunt the Chinese population. With loosening restrictions and regulations, the past few days have been about the unprecedented and alarming rise in the number of Covid cases.

Shanghai, Shenzhen, and several other cities have been under immense stress with pharmacies running out of medicine stocks. 

As reported by The Financial Times, long queues have been reported outside Covid clinics in several Chinese cities. This comes merely a few weeks after the Xi regime abandoned Covid-zero controls in main cities and manufacturing hubs, citing a slowdown in the economy.

China’s Covid-zero containment measures included lockdowns, quarantines, and mass testing. 

However, quite like Wuhan in February 2020, there is a dearth of reliable information from the mainland. As per official government reports, the country recorded only two-thousand odd Covid cases on 19 December.

The unofficial anecdotes and research paint a different picture though, with an online statistician claiming forty million Covid cases on 16 December. 

The claim comes from an economist who goes by the name ChenQin on the Chinese social networking site Zhihu, similar to Quora. Apparently, this economist was deploying online search trends and other data models to estimate the number of Covid cases.

For 17 December, ChenQin claimed that 40 per cent of the Beijing population, around 23 million, was infected.

While the claims remain unverified and without validation, given the lack of transparency surrounding the Covid data from China, social media users are also documenting their version of events.

Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist, claimed in a Twitter thread that over 60 per cent of China’s population would be infected in the next three months. 

Another report quoted in the thread states that China could be staring at 800 million cases in the next three months with deaths amounting to a few millions, resulting in a complete breakdown of the health infrastructure.

The R number, used to estimate the spread of the virus, is hovering around 16 in the current surge in China. In early 2020, it ranged between 2 and 3. 

Before the surge, there were reports of outdated equipment, lack of qualified personnel and experienced doctors, and lack of testing and monitoring facilities. In Beijing and other critical cities, a large outbreak could spell doom for the medical infrastructure, prompting the decision to instead lock down cities again. 

The vulnerability of the population even after the vaccine coverage is another issue.

First, the numbers are dismal. Only 80 per cent of the population above the age of 60 have been given two shots, and only 55 per cent have had a booster dose. In a country of 1.4 billion people, these numbers can have great implications during an outbreak. 

Two, the lack of m-RNA shots and the political call to not import them is intensifying the vulnerability of the citizens to the virus. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has also remarked against the potency of Chinese vaccines. The failure of China’s indigenous vaccines is now a public secret. 

However, Chinese dailies, backed by the government, are now selling the narrative of optimism. Quoting experts, Chinese newspapers are promising normalcy by Feburary, stating that the Omicron variant is not as lethal as its predecessors, and the worst would be behind soon.

For Xi, however, the bigger worry would be the economic fallout of the Covid surge. 

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