After the lifting of the “zero Covid strategy” in China, the corona numbers in the country are exploding: almost 90 percent of the people in China’s third most populous province are now infected with Covid-19. The central government, on the other hand, continues to try to downplay the danger.

Kan Quancheng, director of the Henan Provincial Health Commission, told a news conference that “as of January 6, 2023, the province’s Covid infection rate was 89 percent.” This is reported by The Guardian.

With a population of 99.4 million, these figures mean that around 88.5 million people may have been infected in Henan now. Visits to fever clinics peaked on Dec. 19, Kan said, “after which a steady downward trend was evident.”

The figures stand in stark contrast to the central government’s official figures. Officially, China has reported just 5,272 Covid-related deaths since the pandemic began – one of the lowest death rates from the infection in the world. And although it is known that the infection has multiplied since the strict measures were lifted, Beijing only officially declares that at the end of 2022 only 120,000 people across the country had been infected and only 30 had died. For comparison: China has a population of 1.426 billion people. International health experts estimate that more than a million Chinese could die from Corona this year.

Local and regional officials have repeatedly presented data that contradict official figures from Beijing, such as now in Henan and most recently in the city of Qingdao. Health officials there reported at Christmas that half a million people would become infected every day in the city of 7.7 million people.

China also reopened its borders on Sunday, and many countries have a mandatory PCR test for travelers to China. The opening and abandonment of the strict “zero Covid strategy” was announced after historic protests at the end of 2022.

Covid cases are expected to continue to rise as the country celebrates the Lunar New Year at the end of January, with millions of Chinese traveling from China’s big cities to rural areas to visit relatives. The rural population in China has poorer access to medical facilities, is less vaccinated and often older.

China’s top health officials and state media have repeatedly claimed that Covid infections have already peaked, downplaying the threat posed by the disease.