'After the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, China is experiencing a massive surge in coronavirus cases. Hospitals are completely overwhelmed in China,' reported Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and health economist.
The epidemiologist estimates that more than 60 per cent of China and 10 per cent of Earth's population are likely to be infected over the next 90 days with deaths likely in the millions.
One of Beijing's designated crematoria for COVID-19 patients has been flooded with dead bodies in recent days as the virus sweeps through the Chinese capital, offering an early hint at the human cost of the country's abrupt loosening of pandemic restrictions, reported Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
According to Feigl-Ding, the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) goal is 'let whoever needs to be infected, infected, let whoever needs to die, die. Early infections, early deaths, early peak, early resumption of production'.
China has reported no Covid deaths in Beijing since the authorities announced four deaths between November 19 and 23.
The information office for China's cabinet, the State Council, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment sent late on Friday.
Beijing Dongjiao Crematory, on the eastern edge of the Chinese capital, has experienced a jump in requests for cremation and other funerary services, according to people who work at the compound, reported WSJ.
"Since the Covid reopening, we've been overloaded with work," said a woman who answered the phone at the crematorium on Friday, adding, "Right now, it's 24 hours a day. We can't keep up."
The woman said Dongjiao Crematory, which is operated by Beijing municipality and which the National Health Commission has designated to handle Covid-positive cases, was receiving so many bodies that it was conducting cremations in the predawn hours and in the middle of the night.
"There's no other way," she said.
She estimated that there were roughly 200 bodies arriving each day at the crematorium, from 30 or 40 bodies on a typical day.
The increased workload has taxed the crematorium staff, many of whom have become infected with the fast-spreading virus in recent days, she said.
Men who work at the compound, which in addition to a funeral hall includes a small complex of shops selling burial attire, flowers, caskets, urns and other funerary items, said the number of corpses had risen markedly in recent days, though none would offer an estimate of the magnitude of the increase, reported WSJ.
'Doubling time in China may not be days anymore. Doubling time now possibly 'hours' says some experts -- let that sink in. R is hard to calculate if doubling is less than 1 day because it's hard to PCR test that fast. The point is China & the world is in deep trouble,' said Feigl-Ding.
Moreover, the deaths in mainland China is being hugely underreported. Through a survey of hospitals, funeral parlors and related funeral industry chains in Beijing--there is a recent explosion in funeral services caused by the sharp increase in deaths.
According to the epidemiologist, 'The cremation in Beijing is nonstop. Morgues are overloaded. Refrigerated containers needed. 24/7 funerals. 2000 bodies backlogged for cremations. Sound familiar? It is spring 2020 all over again-- but this time for China, emulating more Western-mass infection approach.'
People rushed to a pharmaceutical factory to buy ibuprofen because it is completely sold out elsewhere.
One said that, typically, all the day's corpses would be cremated by midday. But the recent increase in the number of bodies has meant that cremations are now taking place long after nightfall.
In a series of abrupt moves this month, China dismantled much of the lockdown, testing and quarantine regimes that underpinned its 'Zero Covid' approach for the past three years to suppress even small outbreaks of the virus.
Because of the lifting of testing requirements, the scale of China's coronavirus surge has been hard to measure.
Daily national case counts have steadily fallen as fewer people test themselves at public facilities, and health authorities earlier this week stopped releasing daily tallies of asymptomatic cases for the first time since the pandemic began.
Earlier this month, the Beijing Emergency Medical Centre urged only critically ill patients to call for ambulances, saying that emergency requests had jumped to 30,000 a day from an average of about 5,000, straining the capacity of paramedics to respond, reported WSJ.
According to National Health Commission regulations, corpses diagnosed as Covid-positive or suspected of being Covid-positive must be cremated immediately in specially designated furnaces, with no dressing of bodies or memorial services.
But many of China's 1.4 billion people remain vulnerable to the virus because of limited exposure, low vaccination rates and poor investment in emergency care.