According to a study by Chinese scientists, the wave of infection in metropolitan areas such as Beijing or Shanghai has already passed its peak. But the massive outbreak will also affect provinces in central and western China and rural areas by the end of the month, according to Frontiers of Medicine.
The duration and extent of the forthcoming outbreak in the provinces and in the countryside could be “dramatically extended” by the extensive travel for the New Year celebrations on January 22, according to the study available on Wednesday. Tens of millions traditionally travel to their home villages for the most important Chinese family festival. The new wave of infections in small and medium-sized towns and rural areas is viewed with concern because many elderly people live there and medical care is often inadequate.
Barely a month after the end of the strict zero-Covid strategy that China had been pursuing for almost three years, several hundred million Chinese have already been infected with the virus. The huge outbreak is expected to last until March or April. Exact figures are not available because the authorities have stopped publishing epidemiological data.
In order to discover new variants, three hospitals in three cities each in all provinces have to collect and analyze samples of 15 infections, 10 serious illnesses and all deaths every week. Expert Xi Chen from the Yale School of Public Health in the US believes this is insufficient. “I’m afraid the sample size is too small,” Chen told US Science magazine. Size and population density would also need to be considered.
The government in Beijing had protested against entry restrictions that other countries – due to concerns about the emergence of new virus variants – had imposed on travelers from the People’s Republic. China itself had demanded strict hotel quarantine on arrival for another week and only issued very few visas. Even after the opening of the country announced for Sunday, negative tests for entry must still be proven.
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