China is bracing for a new wave of Covid-19 which could include up to 65 million cases per week by the time the outbreak peaks at the end of June.
Respiratory disease specialist Zhong Nanshan broke the news during a medical conference this week in the southern city of Guangzhou. According to Chinese state media, he told his audience that a wave that started in late April was “anticipated,” and that his modeling suggested China could begin seeing 40 million cases per week, growing to 65 million by June’s end.
The United States, by comparison, reported roughly 5 million cases per week at its peak in January 2022.
The news comes roughly six months after the Chinese government had eased off from its “zero Covid policy” that entailed some of the world’s most draconian lockdowns, quarantines and travel restrictions. Nationwide protests had led to Beijing’s abrupt lifting of the policy, which then led to a surge in infections that temporarily overwhelmed hospitals.
By March, though, the government announced that China was reopening to tourists, after declaring a “decisive victory” over the virus.
However, the latest omicron variant, known as XBB, has fueled a resurgence in cases in the country.
In contrast to the now-defunct “zero Covid policy,” the response from the Chinese government and the public to the new surge has reportedly been muted. And like the U.S., China has stopped publishing weekly case updates, making it difficult to get an accurate accounting of the current outbreak.
U.S. State Department officials have reportedly been discussing the new Chinese Covid wave with allies and partners. However, the agency has declined to say whether it would impose travel restrictions like those levied against Chinese travelers in early January and eased in early March.
“We don’t want to see people anywhere, obviously, suffering from Covid-19,” said State Department spokesperson Matt Miller on Wednesday. “The U.S. government remains committed to working with [China] on transnational challenges, including on global health matters and maintaining open lines of communication.”