Chinese provinces hard hit by Covid see pressure on intensive care, health officials say

People wait outside a fever clinic at Tongren Hospital in Shanghai on December 23, 2022, amid a local outbreak of Covid-19 infections.

Hector Retamal | AFP | Getty Images

BEIJING — Critical care beds and resources in some Chinese provinces are approaching capacity as Covid-19 infections soar, national health authorities said Tuesday.

“In the provinces that are currently experiencing high demand for intensive care, they are approaching the critical threshold of available intensive care beds and resources,” said Jiao Yahui, director of the medical affairs department of China’s National Health Commission. during a press conference. This is according to a CNBC translation of the Mandarin remarks.

In these areas, Jiao said, “there is a need to increase the availability of intensive care beds and resources, or to speed up turnover.”

Overall, Jiao said the national availability of intensive care beds was sufficient, at 12.8 per 100,000 people as of Dec. 25.

Earlier this month, mainland China abruptly ended many Covid checks. In the meantime, infections have increased, putting pressure on the country’s already strained health system.

It is unclear on what scale Covid outbreaks have hit the country, with few official figures on recent infections and deaths. China’s National Health Commission on Sunday stopped sharing daily figures after mandatory drug testing was halted.

Some local governments have leaked details about the regional situation.

Zhejiang province – bordering Shanghai – said on Sunday that daily Covid infections in the region had exceeded one million and would likely double to a peak of 2 million a day around New Year. The province has around 65.4 million of inhabitants.

In the capital of Beijing – one of the first to see a wave of Covid – the share of severe cases and elderly patients has increased in fever clinics, according to an official report on Saturday. He quoted a director of a local hospital who said the share of elderly visits had risen from less than 20% to almost 50%.

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Chinese health authorities were speaking on Tuesday during a briefing on the country’s new Covid measures, released Monday evening. The policy changes included plans to remove quarantine for incoming travelers from January 8.

“We view the new guidelines as a major step toward full reopening, but caution is warranted about heightened challenges to China’s medical system in the near term,” Goldman Sachs analysts said in a note on Tuesday.

“China’s anticipated reopening schedule adds conviction to our below-consensus forecast for Q4 GDP growth (+1.7% y-o-y) and our above-consensus forecast for 2023 GDP (+ 5.2% year-on-year),” the analysts said.

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