China’s deepening Covid crisis

In the week since China drastically rolled back its draconian Covid restrictions in response to nationwide protests, the virus has torn through the nation with reckless abandon.  

What happened: China has stopped counting asymptomatic Covid cases. Its National Health Commission says they’ve become impossible to track as most people with asymptomatic cases aren’t getting tested—creating an unclear picture of total infections.

  • Since lifting mandatory testing requirements to enter most public places, China’s Covid numbers are now unreliable, or “meaningless,” as one EU official put it. 

The decision to stop tracking asymptomatic cases comes after a forecast that China could see one million Covid deaths over the winter if the virus continues to spread. The nation is battling a shortage of cold and flu medicine, and hospitals are already overwhelmed. 

  • Meanwhile, China is trying to dramatically increase vaccination rates, focusing on convincing those over 60 to get booster shots, which has proved to be a challenge

Why it matters: China’s repeal of Covid Zero policies was supposed to inject stability into the global economy after its strict lockdowns battered supply chains. But now, the lack of data on cases and deaths will make it difficult to track the spread of Covid, creating new uncertainties about the economic health of the world’s second-biggest economy.