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China says 80% of its population has been infected with COVID-19 since December

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    China’s chief epidemiologist estimated that 80% of China’s population have been infected with COVID-19 since early December.

    A second COVID wave in China is unlikely to occur in the next two or three months due to the high infection rates and the millions of Chinese traveling across the country for Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival, reported Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

    Wu posted on Weibo that the COVID rebound was improvable even as a large number of people traveling during the Spring Festival holiday period, which can last up to 40 days, may increase infection rates in some areas. 

    “The country as a whole has passed the peak of the wave. Cities and counties of all sizes are basically seeing infections come down,” Wu explained

    On Sunday, the Chinese CDC reported nearly 13,000 COVID-related deaths between Jan. 13 and 19. Previously, government data confirmed about 60,000 deaths roughly one month after China scrapped its zero-COVID policy. 

    With medical staff being discouraged from listing COVID-19 on death certificates in China, the death toll of COVID-19 cases reported by authorities is suspected to be underestimated.

    With the Lunar New Year being the first major holiday since travel restrictions were lifted, the Ministry of Transports estimated that up to 5 billion trips will be made during the Spring Festival period. On Saturday, domestic flights reached 800,000 passengers, doubling the number of flights taken on Lunar New Year’s Eve in 2022. 

    These numbers, along with cases of XBB.1.5, a current variant in the U.S., raised fears of a COVID-19 rebound, to which Wu responded, “In the short term, for example, in the next two to three months, the possibility of… a second wave of the epidemic across the country is very small.” 

    Despite the reassuring message, Wu warned the elderly and other high-risk groups to continue to self-monitor for symptoms and refrain from traveling long distances to visit family and friends.

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