A new COVID model for China predicts more than 1 million deaths

According to projections by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation in the United States (IHME), China’s sudden lifting of strict COVID-19 restrictions could lead to an explosion of cases and more than a million deaths by 2023.

The group’s projections show that cases in China will peak around April 1, when the number of deaths will reach 322,000. Christopher Murray, Director of IHME, said that about a third of China’s population will be infected by that time.

Since the lifting of COVID restrictions, China’s national healthcare authority has not reported any COVID deaths. The last official death was reported on December 3.

The total number of pandemic deaths is 5,235.

China lifted some of its most severe COVID restrictions after massive public protests. Now, the country is experiencing an increase in infections and fears that COVID will sweep through its 1.4 billion people during the Lunar New Year holiday.

Murray stated that nobody thought they would keep to zero-COVID for as long as they did. This was Friday when the IHME projections went online.

He said that China’s zero COVID policy may have helped to keep earlier versions of the virus away, but it was impossible to sustain due to the virus’ high transmissibility.

Independent modelling groups at the University of Washington in Seattle have been used by governments and businesses throughout the pandemic. They used data from the provinces and information from the Omicron outbreak in Hong Kong.

“China has not reported any deaths since the original Wuhan epidemic. Murray stated that this is why Murray looked at Hong Kong for an estimate of the infection death rate.

IHME uses data from the Chinese government on vaccination rates to forecast its future. It also makes assumptions about how different provinces will react as their infection rates rise.

Experts predict that 60% of China’s population will be infected by the disease, with the peak occurring in January. This virus is most likely to affect vulnerable populations such as the elderly or those with pre-existing health conditions.

China’s large population of susceptible people, low vaccination coverage and the use of less effective vaccines are key concerns.


According to University of Hong Kong disease modellers, lifting COVID restrictions while simultaneously reopening all provincials in December 2022 through Jan 2023 would result is 684 deaths per million during that period according to Wednesday’s paper on Medrxiv preprint servers. This paper has not been peer-reviewed.

This is based on China’s population of 1.41 billion. It does not include measures like a mass vaccination booster program. https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2022.12.14.22283460v1.full.pdf

A second study, published in Nature Medicine in July 2022 by researchers from Fudan University in Shanghai, predicted that an Omicron wave without restrictions would cause 1.55 million deaths and peak demand for intensive-care units of 15.6x the existing capacity. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-022-01855-7

Yanzhong Huang is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations for global health. He said that there are 164,000,000 Chinese with diabetes. This can be a risk factor for poor COVID outcomes. 8 million older people have not been vaccinated.

Huang stated that Chinese officials now encourage individuals to receive a boost from a new list of Chinese-made shots. However, the government is still reluctant about using foreign vaccines.

China’s National Health Commission stated Friday that it is increasing vaccinations and building stockpiles of ventilators, essential drugs and other medications.

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