In JAMA Network Open, authors describe how the all-cause mortality rate in China increased after the nation lifted its "zero COVID" policy, resulting in an estimated 1.87 million excess deaths during the first 2 months following the end of the policy.
The study was based on obituary reports of employees at three major Chinese universities in December 2022 to January 2023, and the authors built a model that took the relative increase in mortality in Beijing and Heilongjiang and extrapolated it to the rest of China.
Far more deaths than officially noted
Using the model, the researchers estimated 1.87 million excess deaths (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.71 million to 4.43 million; 1.33 per 1,000 population) among people 30 years and older.
Among those deaths in Beijing, 76% (95% CI, 65% to 84%) were men, and 80% (95% CI, 70% to 87%) were 85 years and older. Death counts peaked in the fourth week of December 2022.
"The number of deaths in universities in Beijing showed a substantial increase compared with expected deaths, with a rise of 403% (95% CI, 351% to 461%) and 56% (95% CI, 41% to 73%) during December 2022 and January 2023," the authors wrote.
The authors acknowledge their estimate far exceeds what China reported, which was 60,000 excess deaths in December 2022.