(ORDO NEWS) — The University of Hong Kong and the Seattle Research Center have published forecasts of an increase in deaths in China with a new wave of the pandemic.
Two independent models have shown that the removal of anti-COVID restrictions could lead to the death of a million people in the coming months.
With full vaccination and the return of restrictions, the number of deaths can be reduced, but it will still be large. China was not ready to lift restrictions.
A wave of COVID in mainland China could kill a million people in the coming months, according to two different models at once.
Most anti-COVID restrictions have been lifted in China. But, judging by the incidence statistics, the country was not ready for this.
Nature magazine quotes James Wood, an infectious disease modeller at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, as saying: “There’s no doubt that China is in for a couple of bad months.”
But two independent studies show that such high mortality can be prevented if a large proportion of the population is vaccinated with the fourth dose of the vaccine, the percentage of mask wearing remains high and restrictions on social interactions are reintroduced when the death rate rises sharply.
These measures can also ease the burden on hospitals.
“It’s never too late to flatten the curve,” says Si Chen, an economist at Yale University in New Haven.
Pandemic wave in China
Over the past month, the Chinese government has lifted many of the restrictions it has put in place to curb the spread of the virus.
The government has lifted lockdowns on entire cities, lifted travel restrictions within and between regions, and allowed people infected with SARS-CoV-2 to isolate at home rather than in a hospital.
Testing is now voluntary.
But there are indications that in some regions the number of infections is growing very rapidly. According to the Xinhua news agency, such a situation has developed, for example, in Beijing.
One study, published by the University of Hong Kong on Dec. 14, uses data from recent outbreaks in Hong Kong and Shanghai to compare different scenarios for a new coronavirus wave in China.
According to the model, hospitals will be overwhelmed if the number of infections rises as quickly as expected after restrictions are lifted.
The study predicts that this will likely result in about a million deaths over the next few months.
But the study suggests that if 85% of the population gets a fourth dose of a vaccine other than the inactivated virus vaccine that most people in the country have received, it could slow the rise in infections and reduce severe illness and death.
Fourth doses of the vaccine, combined with antiviral drugs for people aged 60 years and older, can reduce mortality by a factor of three.
On December 13, the Chinese government announced that people aged 60 and over and other risk groups should receive a fourth dose of the vaccine, preferably based on a technology different from their primary dose.
But of more than 260 million people over 60 in China, only 70% of those aged 60 to 80 received even a third dose, and only 40% over 80.
James Wood notes that the fourth dose may not work. He is “not sure if an extra dose would make a big difference” because circulating variants of the Omicron virus show the ability to evade the body’s immune response.
How to reduce the number of deaths
Another model puts the death toll from COVID-19 in China at half a million by April and 1.6 million by the end of 2023 if nothing changes.
The model is being developed and updated by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle.
According to the institute’s epidemiologist Ali Mokdad, the number of deaths in China could rise to 9,000 a day by the end of March.
The model predicts that the total number of deaths could be roughly halved to 230,000 by April if China takes certain measures: reintroduction of restrictions, high third and fourth dose vaccination rates, intensive antiviral treatment for at-risk groups, and widespread use of masks.
According to Ewen Cameron of the Children’s Institute in Perth, Australia, both studies are broadly consistent in their estimates of mortality and the ability to contain it: “This similarity largely reflects the agreement of scientists that herd immunity in China will be achieved only after a very wide and difficult to control spread of infection. countrywide”.
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