As a result of these public protests, which are the most widespread since those centered on Tiananmen Square that resulted in the brutal crackdown by the regime in 1989, the Chinese government has begun the process of loosening restrictions. While this will undoubtedly allow for more businesses to open their doors to customers, as well as stabilize production of goods for international trade, the fact remains that by responding to the pressures exerted by the Chinese public without first dealing with lagging vaccination rates. Indeed, according to recent figures from the government, only 40% of the Chinese population over 80 has received a Covid booster and other high-risk groups lag behind as well. Inadequate development of ICU units in Chinese hospitals will mean that emergency care might be overwhelmed in the near future as well, assuming the spread of Covid accelerates.
While we don’t yet know what this might mean for China going forward, especially as the Chinese government might yet impose harsher restrictions as necessary to combat the spread of Covid, several groups of researchers have already presented scenarios in which we might expect millions to die from the virus in China. According to researchers at the Center for Disease Control in China’s southwestern Guangxi region, should China mimic the loosening of Covid restrictions like Hong Kong did this year, it might be looking at more than 2 million deaths as a result of the virus and infections at a rate in excess of 233 million due to low vaccination rates and a lack of herd immunity. A similar prediction was made by the British scientific information and analytics company Airfinity, which estimated deaths at between 1.3 million and 2.1 million if Zero-Covid policies are lifted by China. While these represent more bleak scenarios, and there is hope that the Chinese government will continue to act to constrain the spread of Covid as much as possible, the fact that Zero-Covid policies are apparently being set aside indicates we might well still see a surge in deaths in the weeks and months ahead.
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