Do China’s COVID-19 numbers add up?

Feb 28, 2023
Wuhan China , 1 October 2020 : Crowd of people wearing surgical face mask on the 2020 China national day and first day of golden week holidays in Jianghan pedestrian road in Wuhan Hubei China.

Now that China is opening up, it’s a good time to reflect on their pandemic response.

The first-ever COVID-19 strain detected in Wuhan, China in December 2019 was the L strain.

From the pandemic beginning to the end of last November the Chinese reported that only 6000 Chinese had died of Covid.

This is reasonable as only half a million Chinese caught Covid in the initial wave.

Between May 2020 and May 2022 China had no outbreaks of Covid. During this time the country was not locked down, in fact, the center of World Tourism, in terms of visitor numbers, shifted from a locked down France to the most Western province of China, Xinjiang.

China was cut off from the world, yes. But not from itself.

And from the virus.

The virus morphed from Delta to Omicron, and then to BA.5 becoming the more infectious and deadly Omicron. Its sub variants have ranked as the predominant SARS CoV-2 strains in the U.S. The original Omicron strain (BA.1) was first identified in South Africa in late November 2021. By December of that year, Omicron was causing daily case numbers in the U.S. to skyrocket to over a million and began to spawn sub variants. One of those was BA.5, which became the predominant virus strain in the U.S until late last year, and now a new subvariant called XBB.1.5 is on the rise.

The strains of Covid-19 circulating today are both much less deadly and much more contagious.

Once COVID was judged out of control and finally endemic in China, the whole country got Covid-19 at once, at the end of 2022.

On that basis both the lock down and the subsequent Chinese abandonment of its zero COVID strategy seems evidence based.

We would however have cause to expect that hundreds of millions of Chinese contracted Covid-19 last December, so If the Chinese figures were generally accurate one would expect reports of a surge in deaths relating to the sheer number of infections, adjusted by its declining virulence.

And in fact the Chinese report that ten times as many people died in the last month of 2022 than during the entire pandemic.

China says between Dec 8, 2022, and Jan 12, 2023, 59,938 people died for COVID-related reasons in medical institutions, including 5,503 from respiratory failures and 54,435 from underlying health conditions.

The average age of the deceased was 80.3 yr old and 90.1% of them were over 65 yr old.

So, if the stated reason for the lockdown at the beginning of the pandemic was a commitment to protect the elderly and infirm in the Chinese population, China took advantage of a time decay in Covid’s life threatening capacity.

A nation can control Covid-19 to the extent it can be honest with itself about the numbers.

I don’t see any evidence of fudged figures in the Chinese statistics on Covid-19.

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