In a recent post, I cast doubt on claims that China suffered from a Covid pandemic from mid-2020 to mid-2022, which was covered up by the government. I pointed out that something that large is almost impossible to hide. This past week provides an almost perfect illustration of that claim.

As of a few weeks ago, I did not know a single person in China that had contracted Covid. And none of the Chinese people I knew were aware of anyone else that had contracted the disease. That changed almost overnight. Since last week’s post, six Chinese people that I know (in Beijing) have now contracted Covid, and they know of many more cases. It’s obvious that China is suffering from a major pandemic. Here’s Bloomberg:

Nearly 37 million people in China may have been infected with Covid-19 on a single day this week, according to estimates from the government’s top health authority, making the country’s outbreak by far the world’s largest. 

As many as 248 million people, or nearly 18% of the population, likely contracted the virus in the first 20 days of December, according to minutes from an internal meeting of China’s National Health Commission held on Wednesday, confirmed with people involved in the discussions. If accurate, the infection rate would dwarf the previous daily record of about 4 million, set in January 2022. 

Beijing’s swift dismantling of Covid Zero restrictions has led to the unfettered spread of the highly contagious omicron variants in a population with low levels of natural immunity. More than half the residents of Sichuan province, in China’s southwest, and the capital Beijing have been infected, according to the agency’s estimates. 

Thus the reports out of China closely match my own personal knowledge of the situation.  That’s why it’s so difficult to cover up a pandemic—the story would almost certainly leak out through word of mouth.  If China had experienced a Covid pandemic in 2021, lots of cases of Covid would be known to friends and relatives living outside of China.  That was not the case in 2021.

The recent spread of Covid through China appears to be faster than in any other country.  This is likely due to two factors.  First, the Chinese people were “dry tinder”, with almost no herd immunity from previous infections.  Many were vaccinated, but not many had received boosters.  In addition, the vaccines were of inferior quality.  Second, the newest versions of Covid are much more contagious than the original virus that appeared in Wuhan at the end of 2019.

In retrospect, China’s zero Covid policy was clearly a major mistake, even if zero weight is given to human rights.  At a minimum, China should have removed its Covid regulations once the vaccines were widely available.  They wasted more than a year for no benefit at all.  Efforts to control the virus in 2020 (prior to the vaccine) were somewhat more defensible, as they saved millions of lives.

It’s also worth noting that China did not end its zero Covid policy until after Xi Jinping was reappointed in October, an indication that politics likely played a role in delaying the inevitable.