As many of China’s 1.4 billion people endure a blustering winter amid a virus outbreak, officials say infections have reached their peak while propaganda outlets are emphasizing a “new beginning.”
But is the situation really looking up?
Many citizens are still struggling to cope with the nationwide COVID-19 surge as they mourn loved ones who succumbed to the infection. Others say they’re fearful of what lies ahead.
Overall, China is expected to face a total of three COVID-19 waves, with two of them still approaching. The prediction comes from China’s own top health official, Wu Zunyou, who is China’s chief epidemiologist and the face of the nation’s pandemic response, like Anthony Fauci in the United States.
According to Wu, China’s current infection spike would run until mid-January. The second wave is expected to begin this weekend, triggered by mass travel for the Lunar New Year holiday. Officials estimate more than two billion trips will be made across China from mid-January to mid-February. After that, the third infection surge would run from late February to mid-March, marking the travelers’ return to work after the holiday.
Those predictions raise a key question: how many COVID-19 cases and deaths has China seen?
Official data on the extent of the outbreak has been very limited. A Chinese official’s daughter wrote on Twitter that 17 of her friends and relatives have died in less than a month. She said that based on what she’s seen, officials are covering up the true death toll. She noted hundreds of thousands of people died in the city of Beijing alone in one month.
China has said nearly 60,000 people died of COVID-19 in hospitals in recent weeks. That official death toll comes as some doctors say they’ve been discouraged from listing COVID-19 on death certificates. Funeral homes across China are also spending more on items like body bags and cremation ovens.
Starting this week, China’s internet regulator said it would censor any so-called “fake information” about the spread of the virus. This includes video clips, photos, and text that internet users post online.