Study Reveals 2M Extra Deaths Post China’s COVID Restrictions Lift

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China’s decision to abandon its strict COVID-19 regimen may have resulted in nearly 2 million excess deaths in two months, according to a study by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle. Researchers say this number far exceeds the official Chinese government estimate of 60,000 COVID-19 deaths since the zero-COVID policy was discarded. The study, which used data from published obituaries and searches on Baidu, provides insight into the potential impact of a sudden outbreak of COVID-19 on population mortality.

China’s Abrupt Lift of COVID-19 Measures Led to Nearly 2 Million Excess Deaths, U.S. Study Shows

BEIJING, Aug 25 – According to a new U.S. study, China’s unexpected end to its stringent COVID-19 rules, exposing the virus to its 1.4 billion residents, potentially caused nearly 2 million excess deaths over two months.

The research by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle used a sample of mortality data from some Chinese universities and internet searches.

The study discovered approximately 1.87 million excess deaths from all causes in people aged 30 and above between December 2022 and January 2023, in all mainland China provinces except Tibet.

China’s decision to abandon a three-year zero-COVID policy last December, including mass-testing and persistent quarantine lockdowns, resulted in a large spike in hospitalisations and deaths that health experts say were largely unreported by the government.

The study, published on Thursday in JAMA Network Open, asserts that the number of excess deaths greatly surpassed official Chinese government estimates in January that 60,000 people with COVID-19 had died in hospital since the zero-COVID policy was terminated a month earlier.

Researchers performed statistical analysis using information from published obituaries and data from Baidu searches.

“Our study of excess deaths related to the lifting of the zero-COVID policy in China provides an empirically derived benchmark estimate. These findings are vital for understanding how the abrupt spread of COVID-19 across a population can impact population mortality,” the researchers stated.

China’s National Health Commission did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.

Global health experts repeatedly urged China to disclose more data as reports of increasing hospitalisations and deaths surfaced, particularly with the threat of new variants.

China stopped reporting official daily death results at the end of 2022. The World Health Organization reports that there have been 121,628 COVID deaths in China, out of almost 7 million worldwide.

In July, a Chinese province briefly posted data on its website showing cremations jumped 70% in the first quarter of the year.

In February, China’s top leaders declared a “decisive victory” over COVID.

However, the virus is still prevalent in the country. Beijing health officials announced that COVID remains the number one infectious disease in the capital, according to Chinese state media.

The new Omicron variant, EG.5 or “Eris”, has been cited as the current dominant strain across China.

“The National Bureau of Disease Control and Prevention stated that the proportion of the new variant EG.5 increased from 0.6% in April to 71.6% in August, becoming the dominant strain in most Chinese provinces,” the Global Times reported.

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