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The Guardian view on China’s Covid crisis: zero preparation | Editorial

The country’s reckless reopening without adequate planning is claiming lives. It did not have to be this way

China’s citizens know this winter is a deadly one. But they do not know how deadly. According to leaked information, health officials estimated that about 250 million people – 18% of the population – were infected with Covid in the first 20 days of December and that as of Christmas Eve, the rate of infection was still rising.

Yet the authorities’ public pronouncements have been extremely limited and clearly misleading or downright ludicrous. The virus rips through the country and bodies wait days for collection – but on Monday, China reported 76 Covid deaths, of which all but two were in Hong Kong, not on the mainland. Relatives report loved ones dying of Covid but having something else recorded on the death certificate. Worse may be to come: while there are signs of younger people recovering in Beijing and Shanghai, the lunar new year is fast approaching, and with it the return of hundreds of millions of migrants, on planes, crowded trains and buses, to smaller towns and rural areas with far worse healthcare than big cities.

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