The spike in COVID-19 cases in China after the government abruptly rolled back its tough restrictions has led to chaos in ill-prepared and understaffed hospitals, as long lines of fearful residents flood its clinics.
With limited exposure to a disease largely under control so far, China is unprepared, analysts say, for a wave of infections that could overwhelm its fragile healthcare system and cripple businesses as its economy continues to falter. Contract.
Cases began to climb after the Chinese government began rolling back its controversial ‘zero-COVID’ policy last week after unprecedented protests.
In Beijing, around 80 people huddled in the cold outside a fever clinic in the upscale Chaoyang district as ambulances raced past.
A Beijing government official said late Monday that visits to such clinics had risen to 22,000 a day, up 16 times from the previous week.
Some medical facilities are struggling to find enough staff, and others are suspending or delaying non-COVID treatments, including dialysis and chemotherapy.
State media urged people with mild symptoms to stay home and avoid calling Beijing’s emergency medical hotline in a bid to free up resources for the seriously ill.
Staff at at least one hospital in the capital have been told to continue coming to work even if they have COVID, provided their symptoms are mild, according to a medical worker speaking to Bloomberg News.
At another Beijing hospital, doctors and nurses were reportedly ordered to return to work after the holidays.
Some facilities have reported staffing shortages of up to 20%.
China has 138,000 intensive care beds, Director General of the Medical Administration Office of the National Health Commission Jiao Yahui said at a press conference on Friday. That’s less than one per 10,000 people.
In recent weeks, local cases have trended downward since peaking at 40,052 in late November, official figures show, however. Sunday’s tally of 8,626 was down from 10,597 new cases the day before.
It’s unclear how much the number of infections has risen since Beijing last week ended mandatory testing as often as once a day in many areas.
But interviews and social media accounts indicate there are outbreaks in businesses and schools across the country. Some restaurants and other businesses have closed because too many employees are sick.
The virus testing site in Beijing’s Runfeng Shuishang district has closed because all of its employees were infected, the district’s government announced on its social media account on Saturday. “Please be patient,” he said.
China’s official total number of cases of 363,072 is up nearly 50% from the Oct. 1 level after a wave of outbreaks across the country. The official death toll is 5,235, compared to 1.1 million in the United States.
In comments Monday in the state-backed newspaper Shanghai Securities News, Zhang Wenhong, head of a mall expert team, said the current outbreak could peak within a month, although the end of the pandemic could be in three to six months. .
China ditched testing ahead of many activities, limited quarantine and prepared to disable a mobile app used to track the travel histories of its 1.4 billion citizens as the country seeks to join much of the rest of the world trying to live with the virus.
In a post on WeChat, Zhang’s team said that despite the surge, the current strain of Omicron has not caused any long-term harm and people should be optimistic.
“We are about to exit the tunnel; the air, the sun, the free travel, it’s all waiting for us,” the message said.
“Try as much as you can not to go out…” he said on the WeChat messaging app. “Be the first person to take responsibility for your own health, let’s face this together.”
Such messages seem to have reached some who say they are reluctant to visit crowded places or dine in restaurants.
Still, China is pushing to free up domestic travel, even though overseas travel can take a while.
A state-mandated mobile app identifying travelers in COVID-affected areas will shut down Monday at midnight.
The number of domestic flights available across China topped 7,400, nearly double from a week ago, flight-tracking app VariFlight showed.
Experts, however, warn there is still a chance that China’s ruling Communist Party will do an about-face and reimpose restrictions if it fears hospitals will be overwhelmed.
With post wires
New York Post