Eight out of 10 people in China have now contracted Covid-19, a prominent government scientist has claimed.
Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said Saturday – the eve of the Lunar New Year – that the current “epidemic wave has already infected about 80% of the people” in the country of 1.4 billion people People.
His claim came amid fears that the travel rush taking place around the Lunar New Year holiday – sometimes dubbed the “world’s largest human migration” – could spread the virus to the country and cause a second wave of infections.
But Wu, speaking on his personal social media account, said that scenario is unlikely as so many people have already noticed.
“In the next two to three months, the possibility of a large-scale Covid-19 rebound or a second wave of infections across the country is very slim,” Wu said.
China’s Ministry of Transport estimates that over 2 billion passenger trips will take place during the 40-day Lunar New Year season as people across the country return to their hometowns for family reunions without domestic travel restrictions for the first time since the pandemic began more than three years ago.
Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reported Sunday that more than 26 million passenger trips were made on the eve of the Lunar New Year.
That’s only half the number of same-day travelers in 2019 before the Covid-19 pandemic, but 50.8% more than in 2022, it said.
More than 4.1 million people traveled by train and 756,000 people by plane for holiday gatherings the day before the start of the lunar new year, CCTV added.
The country’s road transport system recorded more than 20 million passenger trips on the same day, up 55.1% from 2022.
As of Friday, China’s transportation system had handled over 560 million passenger trips via rail, highway, water and air in the first 15 days of the 40-day Spring Festival travel rush, up 47.9% from the same period last year, according to CCTV.
Earlier, research from the National School of Development at Peking University found that more than 900 million people, or 64% of China’s population, were “likely” infected with Covid-19 as of January 11.
The university’s research also suggested that the epidemic peaked across much of the country on December 20, about 13 days after China began easing its Covid restrictions.
According to studies, infections had peaked across the country by the end of December.
Chinese health officials have made similar claims, saying Thursday that visits to clinics for fever and Covid hospitalizations in China have declined since their peaks in late December and early January respectively.
According to the authorities, the number of Covid patients who need intensive care in hospitals has also peaked.
According to government data, nearly 60,000 people with Covid died in Chinese hospitals between December 8 and January 12 after China abruptly scrapped its “zero Covid” policy.
However, the World Health Organization’s executive director for health emergencies, Mike Ryan, suggested earlier this month that the figures released by China “underrepresent the true impact of the disease” in terms of hospital and intensive care admissions and deaths.
According to an internal estimate by the country’s top health authorities, nearly 250 million people in China may have contracted Covid in the first 20 days of December. If the estimate is correct – which CNN can’t independently confirm – it would make up about 18% of China’s population.