Beijing: China reported nearly 13,000 Covid-related deaths in hospitals between January 13 and 19, with a top health official saying most of the population has already been infected with the virus.

China said a week ago that nearly 60,000 people had died of Covid in hospitals as of January 12, but there has been widespread skepticism over the official figures since Beijing abruptly ended anti-virus controls last month. China’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a statement on Saturday that 681 patients hospitalized with respiratory failure caused by the coronavirus infection had died, and 11,977 from other diseases combined with the infection during the period. The figures do not include those who died from the virus at home.

Airfinity, an independent forecasting firm, has forecast that daily Covid deaths in China will peak at around 36,000 during the Lunar New Year holiday. The firm also estimated that more than 600,000 people have died from the disease since China abandoned its zero-Covid policy in December.

Tens of millions of people have travelled across the country in recent days for long-awaited reunions with families to mark the biggest holiday in the lunar calendar that fell on Sunday, raising fears of fresh outbreaks.

But a top health official said China will not experience a second wave of Covid infections in the next two to three months after millions return to villages to mark the Lunar New Year because about 80 per cent of the population is already infected with the virus.

“Although a large number of people travelling during the Spring Festival may promote the spread of the epidemic to a certain extent… the current wave of the epidemic has already infected about 80 per cent of the people in the country,” Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a post on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform on Saturday.

“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.”

China’s transport authorities have predicted that more than two billion trips will be made this month through February in one of the world’s biggest mass movements.

By Archana

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