Young people in China ‘deliberately getting infected with Covid’, report claims

People walk past red lanterns at a rooftop cafe near the Drum Tower in Beijing (AFP via Getty Images)
People walk past red lanterns at a rooftop cafe near the Drum Tower in Beijing (AFP via Getty Images)

Young people in China are deliberately exposing themselves to Covid as the country experiences a surge in infections, according to reports.

Several young people living in China told the BBC that they had sought an infection in order to prevent themselves from catching the virus again in the near future.

China’s President Xi Jinping abruptly ended the country’s Zero Covid strategy on December 7 last year, which sought to eliminate all transmission of the virus through harsh lockdowns and mass testing. The policy sparked protests in several Chinese cities last month.

The reopening has sparked a huge wave of infections throughout the country, putting hospitals under severe pressure.

One 27-year-old coder in Shanghai told the broadcaster they had exposed themselves to the virus because he “did not want to change my holiday plan”.

He went on: “I could make sure I recovered and won't be infected again during the holiday if I intentionally control the time I get infected.”

Another resident in the city, a 26-year-old woman, told the BBC that she had visited a friend with the virus so that she could also become infected.

Greece, Germany and Sweden on Thursday joined more than a dozen countries to demand Covid tests from travellers following the UK’s decision last week.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning warned on Friday of possible reciprocal measures after the European Union recommended pre-departure testing for Chinese passengers.

"The EU should listen more to ... rational voices and treat China's epidemic prevention and control objectively and fairly," he told a regular media briefing in Beijing.

The World Health Organisation on Thursday warned that China is underrepresenting the number of people dying with Covid as the country experiences a huge surge in infections.

China has only announced 22 Covid deaths since December and uses its own criteria to measure fatalities. Only respiratory illnesses, such as pneumonia, are counted as a Covid death – against the WHO’s own guidance.

The WHO encourages countries to count its number of excess deaths, which measure Covid fatalities against those reported before the pandemic hit.

Dr Michael Ryan, the WHO’s emergencies director, said he believed that China’s definition of a Covid death was “too narrow”.

He claimed the figures “underrepresent the true impact of the disease in terms of hospital admissions, in terms of ICU admissions, and particularly in terms of death”.