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COVID-19 in China: Expert says 80% of population have been infected.

Click to play video: 'China says critical COVID-19 cases have peaked as holiday travel surges'

The number of COVID-19 patients needing critical care in China's hospitals has peaked, health authorities said on Thursday, as millions travelled across the country for long-awaited reunions with families ahead of the holidays, raising fears of fresh outbreaks.

The possibility of a big COVID-19 rebound in China over the next two or three months is remote as 80% of people have been infected, a prominent government scientist said on Saturday.

The mass movement of people during the ongoing Lunar New Year holiday period may spread the pandemic, boosting infections in some areas, but a second COVID wave is unlikely in the near term, Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said on the Weibo social media platform.

Hundreds of millions of Chinese are travelling across the country for holiday reunions that had been suspended under recently eased COVID curbs, raising fears of fresh outbreaks in rural areas less equipped to manage large outbreaks.

China has passed the peak of COVID patients in fever clinics, emergency rooms and with critical conditions, a National Health Commission official said on Thursday.

Nearly 60,000 people with COVID had died in hospital as of Jan. 12, roughly a month after China abruptly dismantled its zero-COVID policy, according to government data.

But some experts said that figure probably vastly undercounts the full impact, as it excludes those who die at home, and because many doctors have said they are discouraged from citing COVID as a cause of death.

(Reporting by Beijing newsroom; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and William Mallard)

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