China Faces 840 Million COVID Infections in ‘First Wave’: Ex-CDC Official

Tourists at Forbidden Temple

Up to 840 million people in China could be infected with COVID-19 at the height of the coming wave, a senior health adviser has said, projecting a figure that would surpass the current worldwide case count by nearly 200 million.

Beijing took the first step in exiting its stringent zero-COVID policy this week by scrapping regular testing and prohibiting lengthy lockdowns. “No matter what form policy adjustments take, most of us will inevitably experience an infection,” said Feng Zijian, former deputy director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

“According to mathematical models, when the large-scale impact of the first wave reaches its peak, the infection rate in the population could reach around 60 percent,” Feng said at a discussion organized by Beijing’s Tsinghua University on Tuesday. “After that, it will gradually plateau. In the end, 80 to 90 percent of the population could be infected.”

Since anti-government

protests erupted in late November, state media have been bracing the public for the realities of coexisting with the virus, which is now portrayed as milder than the flu rather than an existential threat just weeks ago. Meanwhile, leading health officials are urging calm while speaking candidly for the first time about the price of reopening China.

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