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Beijing has achieved "temporary herd immunity" and its Covid epidemic is nearing an end, a city health official said on Tuesday, in another sign that China's virus wave is subsiding. Since the ruling Communist Party abruptly ended its zero-Covid policy last month, the world's most populous country has seen a flood of cases.
The surge has filled hospitals and crematoria in major cities including Beijing, although the scale of the epidemic is hard to verify as official figures are believed to represent a tiny fraction of the actual number of cases. But there were signs that the increase had begun to recede, with authorities last week saying that the number of daily Covid deaths nationwide had fallen by almost 80 percent since the beginning of January. Wang Quanyi, deputy director of the Beijing Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told local media on Tuesday that the city of 22 million had "implemented temporary herd immunity protection".
"This wave of infections in Beijing has already reached its peak and is now coming to an end," Wang was quoted as saying by the Beijing News. The capital was "currently in a state of sporadic infections", with the virus showing a "relatively low transmission risk", Wang said. The number of people seeking flu treatment at major Beijing hospitals fell by more than 40 percent between January 23 and 29 compared with the previous week, the paper said, citing official data. The nationwide drop in the number of infections suggests that the end of the Lunar New Year holiday "will not have too much of an impact" as people return to Beijing from other parts of the country, Wang said.
He added that the city will conduct a survey of thousands of residents in February and March to find out how many anti-Covid antibodies they have in their blood plasma. The survey will "comprehensively evaluate the status of the coronavirus infection in Beijing" and "provide references for optimizing resource allocation in the future," Wang said.