China’s decision to dismantle its strict COVID-19 regime in December 2022 may have resulted in almost 2 million excess deaths in the following two months, according to a new study conducted by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle. The study analyzed mortality data from Chinese universities and internet searches and found that approximately 1.87 million excess deaths occurred among people over the age of 30 across all provinces in mainland China, except Tibet. These deaths far exceeded the Chinese government’s official estimate of 60,000 COVID-19 deaths in January. The study highlights the significant impact of lifting the zero-COVID policy in China and its consequences on population mortality.
The study utilized statistical analysis using information from published obituaries and data from Baidu, a popular Chinese internet search engine, to derive its benchmark estimate of excess deaths. The findings provide crucial insights into the rapid spread of COVID-19 and its potential impact on the population. Health experts, both within and outside China, have repeatedly urged the Chinese government to provide more data as rising hospitalizations and deaths became evident. China ceased reporting official daily death results at the end of 2022, making it challenging to accurately assess the true extent of the pandemic within the country.
Although China declared a “decisive victory” over COVID-19 in February, the virus continues to circulate, with Beijing health officials confirming that COVID-19 remains the number one infectious disease in the capital. The emergence of the new Omicron variant, known as EG.5 or “Eris,” has become the dominant strain across most provinces in China. As China grapples with ongoing outbreaks and rising cases, the study highlights the consequences of dismantling strict preventive measures and the subsequent surge in hospitalizations and deaths.