Scores of horrifying photos and videos have revealed just how devastating China’s current Covid crisis has become, despite authorities insisting the situation is under control.
Recent pictures taken in the nation – which has quickly emerged as the world’s Covid hotspot – show piles of bodies lying on the ground in morgues and hospital hallways, with footage revealing medical centres already stretched to the limits and funeral parlours buckling under a sudden surge in demand.
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However, despite the clear evidence of the escalating crisis, the official Covid death toll for December stands at just 10, with officials doubling down on the decision to abandon China’s zero-Covid policy after years of draconian lockdowns.
Within days of the harsh restrictions lifting, cases began to explode, with international epidemiologists and studies predicting the latest wave could result in millions of deaths.
Of key concern is China’s so-called “R number”, which refers to how many people an average Covid patient infects.
China National Health Commission scientists estimate the R number is now 16 in China – far higher than that of other countries during previous Covid waves – with experts bracing for more than 60 per cent of the population to be infected in the coming weeks.
And while a rise in the Covid death toll is expected as a nation reopens – a trend seen across the globe over the course of the pandemic – China is thought to be especially vulnerable, given the country’s low vaccination rates, especially among the elderly.
China’s reliance on its own vaccines, which have been proven to be less effective at preventing serious illness and death than mRNA jabs used across the world, have also added to the current anxiety being felt.
40yo star dies from Covid complications
In addition to the grim scenes of China’s mounting death toll, the death of renowned Beijing actor and opera singer Chu Lanlan at 40 from Covid complications has also brought home just how serious the current surge is.
The star’s death was confirmed by a student on Chinese social media platform Weibo, who claimed the virus triggered underlying health conditions.
Her death has stunned many, given her age and the fact she had been seen alive and well by adoring fans at a performance just weeks ago.
Sneaky rule change amid ‘cover up’ rumours
Meanwhile, it has emerged that China secretly changed the definition of what constitutes a Covid death earlier this month, coinciding with the easing of restrictions.
Beijing now only considers those who died of respiratory failure while Covid positive as official virus deaths, while previously, any death while Covid positive counted towards the official tally.
The quiet rule change has added further fuel to growing speculation of a deliberate underreporting of cases and deaths, with many accusing the Chinese government of covering up the true crisis.
“Few died from respiratory failure caused by Covid and the most common cause of death is underlying disease,” leading infectious disease doctor Wang Guiqiang told journalists this week by way of explanation.
The nation has recorded just over 5200 Covid deaths since the start of the pandemic, compared with more than 16,000 in Australia – a nation with a fraction of the population.
While it’s tempting to view China’s current crisis as an isolated problem, experts have warned that it has the potential to wreak havoc across the globe, by causing widespread infections and supply chain chaos, with possible shortages of crucial medicines and goods in the not-too-distant future.
There are already shortages of cold medications within China, with Harvard-trained US epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding claiming this week that “we need to worry about supply chains if China’s Covid explosion continues”.
“What happens in China doesn’t stay in China — Wuhan was our lesson three years ago. The global fallout of this 2022-2023 wave will not be small,” he warned, adding that he believed the “global economic fallout from China’s new mega tsunami wave will be ugly”.
Originally published as ‘Matter of time’: Photos show bodies piling up in China as Covid cases explode