Publication date: Sep 20, 2023
We construct a mourning and funeral index, using online search volume for “wreath and elegiac couplet”, “obituary”, “mortuary house”, “cinerary casket”, “cremation” and “pass away”, to infer excess cases of mortality in China during the COVID-19 pandemic. During the 3-month period (December 2022-February 2023) after China ended its Zero-COVID policy, there were around 712 thousand excess cases of mortality. These excess cases of mortality, bench marked against the 2-year period preceding the pandemic, could be directly or indirectly related to COVID-19. During the 35-month Zero-COVID regime (January 2020-November 2022), the excess death toll was a negative 1480 thousand. Overall, by delaying the surge in infections, China might have saved 767 thousand lives. While these estimates are based on various assumptions and can be imprecise, China’s COVID-19 experience could reasonably be characterized by a sharp surge in deaths after its departure from Zero-COVID and a steady pattern of lives saved during the Zero-COVID regime.
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