Nearly 90 percent of the population in China’s Henan, the country’s third most populous province, is now infected with Covid-19, a top official said in state media that said the virus had weakened in a new phase of the outbreak.
Henan’s Covid infection rate reached 89 percent as of January 6, Kan Quancheng, director of the province’s central health commission, said on Monday.
“With a population of 99.4 million, the figures suggest that around 88.5 million people in Henan may have been infected now,” the top official said, adding that the fever clinic saw a peak in visits on December 19.
The head of the health commission said that later in China’s largest province there was a continuous downward trend.
This comes as the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Xi Jinping’s regime said in a Monday report that the Covid situation in the country was improving.
“Life moves on again!” the People’s Journal he stated in an editorial on Monday, praising the administration’s efforts to combat the Covid outbreak, which he said went from “preventing infection” to “preventing severe disease.”
“Today the virus is weak, we are stronger,” a government spokesman said.
However, top health officials and state media said the actual number of Covid-19 deaths in China has been masked and the country is witnessing a peak in cases.
On Sunday, China reported a total of 5,272 deaths from COVID-19 using a method that has been questioned by the World Health Organization (WHO), which pointed to inaccuracies in infection rates, hospitalizations and intensive care units.
Accounts at the site say funeral homes in the country have seen an increase in the number of dead being brought in.
WHO officials have previously said China is “understating” the scale of the epidemic and using an inaccurate method of recording Covid deaths, preventing experts monitoring the pandemic and the virus’ pathogens from summarizing the true scale of the disaster.
Dozens of countries have put China on alert lists to screen travelers coming from the country.
However, on Monday, several people lined up outside immigration offices in Beijing wanting to renew their passports after the country weakened border controls as part of dismantling a “zero-Covid” policy that sparked high-voltage protests.
China has asked travelers to present negative Covid tests before departure.
Airfinity, a UK-based health data company, expects Covid infections in China to peak at 3.7 million Covid cases a day by January 13.
“10 days later, the number of deaths is estimated to peak at around 25,000 per day, and at this stage a total of 584,000 since the virus began spreading across the country in December,” Airfinity said in its latest assessment.
It added that at least 1.7 million deaths are expected in China by the end of April this year.