China COVID outbreak 'infected 80pc'

The possibility of a big COVID-19 rebound in China during the next few months is remote as 80 per cent of people have been infected, a prominent government scientist says.

The mass movement of people during the ongoing Lunar New Year holiday period might spread the pandemic, boosting infections in some areas, but a second COVID-19 wave was unlikely in the near term, Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said on the Weibo social media platform.

Hundreds of millions of Chinese are travelling across the country for holiday reunions that had been suspended under recently eased COVID-19 curbs, raising fears of fresh outbreaks in rural areas less equipped to manage large outbreaks.

China has passed the peak of COVID-19 patients in fever clinics, emergency rooms and with critical conditions, a National Health Commission official said on Thursday.

Nearly 60,000 people with COVID-19 had died in hospital as of January 12, roughly a month after China abruptly dismantled its zero-COVID policy, according to government data.

But some experts say that figure probably vastly under-counts the full impact because it excludes those who die at home, and because many doctors have said they are discouraged from citing COVID-19 as a cause of death.