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China Faces New COVID Wave With 65 Million Infections Per Week, According to Party Media

Neil Campbell
Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.
Published: May 23, 2023
CCP media says a new wave of XBB Omicron is projected to infect 65 million people a week by June.
People wear masks at the Capital International Airport in Beijing on March 14, 2023. Chinese Communist Party media reported a new heavy wave of the Omicron XBB variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is racking the mainland, expected to peak at 65 million infections a week. (Image: JADE GAO/AFP via Getty Images)

A new wave of the XBB variant of the Omicron strain of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is being estimated by Chinese government officials as infecting 65 million people per week, Communist Party media reported.

According to May 22 reporting by the English version of Caixin Global, an article published by Nanfang Daily, described as “the official newspaper of the Guangdong provincial committee of Communist Party of China,” quoted National Clinical Research Center for Respiratory Disease Director Zhong Nanshan as estimating that the new wave would peak in June amid an extremely high infection rate.


Zhong was paraphrased as stating the wave, which started in April without making waves in western media, was “triggered by the omicron subvariant XBB” and will infect 40 million people a week before the end of May.

The director was also paraphrased as stating that he had “made the prediction based on a predictive modeling analysis.”

The CCP’s publicly-released COVID statistics have been dubious at best since the pandemic began.

Based on data reported by the Chinese government and published via data aggregator Our World In Data, as of Dec. 5, 2022, the country claimed to only suffer 9.79 million confirmed cases and 30,567 deaths compared to the 97.60 million cases and 1.07 million deaths reported by the United States.

After the Xi Jinping leadership did away with the “zero-COVID” lockdowns at the beginning of 2023, the Communist Party suddenly reported a huge number of new cases.

By Jan. 13, China’s case count exploded to 97.31 million. However, although the death count did jump by a factor of more than 3 to 95,877, the figure remained suspiciously subdued compared to countries such as India and Brazil, which report a fatality count of 620,238 and 485,035 respectively by the same date.

On Jan. 30, BBC quoted China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention as claiming that the wave arising following the abolition of “zero-COVID” was now moot: “In this time, no new variant has been discovered, and the country’s current wave is coming to an end.”

After that, China’s national data COVID reporting virtually disappears. Between Jan. 30 to the time of writing, the number of confirmed deaths has only increased by 7,282 and cumulative positive cases have increased by a mere 760,000.

By comparison, between Jan. 30 and time of writing, in the United States, the number of reported deaths increased by 30,000 and positive cases by 2,510,000.

A May 22 article published by South China Morning Post cites China’s CDC as assessing that the proportion of positive cases being associated with Omicron XBB was as high as 74.4 percent in April, rising to 83.6 percent by May.

SCMP paraphrased another Communist Party publication, Science and Technology Daily, as citing Peking University Professor Xie Xiaoliang as warning that the country “should brace for a second wave of infections next winter.”

The article also quoted Zhong as claiming the new wave was “anticipated.”

U.S. big pharma stocks associated with vaccines, specifically Moderna and Pfizer, the two companies who are the source of the overwhelming majority of experimental gene therapy messenger RNA vaccines sold outside of China, enjoyed large gains in their stock price following the news making headlines for the morning of May 23.

Pfizer gained 2.3 percent, Moderna gained 8.69 percent, and lesser-known Operation Warp Speed contender Novavax, which makes a more conventional protein subunit COVID vaccine, gained 5.97 percent, marking some of the largest gains of the year.

Yet in coverage of the manifestations appearing in the U.S. and German equities market, trading-focused publication Seeking Alpha pointed out that “none of the foreign-made COVID shots are approved in China.”

In a May 18 article, Seeking Alpha noted that last week the World Health Organization recommended that vaccine makers release new products focusing on the Omicron XBB variant.

SCMP paraphrased Zhong as stating that several vaccines targeting Omicron had been given “preliminary approval” and “were expected to be available soon.”