China is bracing for a new wave of Covid infections that could see as many as 65 million cases per week by the time the surge peaks at the end of June.

It’s a startling prediction in a country, where the pandemic originated in late 2019, that only months ago had enforced some of the harshest Covid control protocols on the planet.

Now, with the latest omicron variant, XBB, fueling a resurgence in cases, the response from China’s government and the public is muted at best.


The surge comes about six months after the country dismantled its sprawling infrastructure for dealing with Covid, including harsh lockdowns, mass testing, stifling quarantines and strict mask requirements.

“People feel differently about this wave,” said Qi Zhang, 30, who works at a finance company in the northern city of Tianjin. “The last time, everyone was terrified, but now they don’t think it’s a big deal,” she told NBC News on Thursday.

The new wave’s data was revealed by respiratory disease specialist Zhong Nanshan at a medical conference this week in the southern city of Guangzhou.

According to state media, he told the audience that the wave that started in late April was “anticipated,” and that his modeling suggested China could be approaching 40 million infections per week. By the end of June, he said, the weekly number of infections will peak at 65 million.

The United States, by comparison, was reporting more than 5 million cases a week at its peak last January. Like the U.S., China stopped providing weekly case updates this month, making it difficult to know the true extent of the current outbreak.

The State Department said the U.S., which imposed a testing requirement on travelers from China in January before lifting it in March, was discussing China’s second Covid wave with allies and partners but declined to say whether travel restrictions were under consideration.

Spokesperson Matt Miller said the department would monitor the situation in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before updating travel guidelines.

“We don’t want to see people anywhere, obviously, suffering from Covid-19,” Miller said Wednesday. The U.S. government remains committed to working with China “on transnational challenges, including on global health matters and maintaining open lines of communication,” he added.

Various versions of the omicron subvariants, including XBB 1.5, XBB.1.16, also known as “Arcturus,” and XBB.1.9.1, have been circulating in the U.S. since December and make up nearly all of the current infections in the country. Although the CDC isn’t regularly tracking new cases and the majority of new infections are likely going uncounted, hospitalizations and deaths are continuing to decline in the U.S.


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