China's Covid Deaths and Severe Cases Both Slide 98% From Peak Levels

(Bloomberg) -- The number of Covid-related deaths and severe cases at Chinese hospitals have both declined by 98% from peak levels reached in early January, according to the country’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Daily fatalities at hospitals across the mainland slid to 102 as of Monday, down 97.6% from a high of 4,273 on Jan. 4, the agency said in a statement dated Wednesday. Severe hospitalized cases fell to 2,000, marking a 98% drop from the peak of 128,000 on Jan. 5, it said.

The figures showcase a continuous improvement in China’s battle with the pandemic since the initial chaos following the abrupt end of the government’s zero-tolerance approach toward Covid-19. Economists expect an acceleration in the economy as infections recede.

China’s Covid case data have been under scrutiny in the wake of the World Health Organization last month urging Beijing to release more detailed information as the virus spread rapidly throughout the country. The government also drew criticism for dramatically narrowing its definition of a death caused by Covid and halting daily caseload reports.

Authorities have since reported on deaths that fall outside the narrower definition — which only counts fatalities from infected people with respiratory failure — in an attempt to appease concerns. Still, the true toll could be hundreds of thousands higher than the official figures, which only count deaths at hospitals, analysts have said.

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Other concerns remain. Yum China Holdings, the largest western fast-food company, with about 11,790 restaurants across the country, recently warned against over-optimism in its latest earnings report.

“Consumers tend to be more careful with spending after holidays,” the company said. “A portion of the population may remain cautious about going out in public.”

Meantime, in Beijing, authorities urged students at elementary and middle schools in the capital city to continue wearing masks after they return to campuses next week.

Separately, China’s CDC said Wednesday that clear progress has been made in immunization. Some 90.6% of the whole population was fully vaccinated against Covid, with two doses, as of Feb. 6, it said. Among people over 60, 96.6% have had two shots and 92% have had a first booster dose, the agency said.

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