Health officials in China predict a peak in COVID-19 infections within a week, putting additional strain on the nation’s healthcare system even as they downplay the severity of the illness and continue to report no new deaths.
China, the last major nation to move toward accepting the virus, started dismantling its “zero-COVID” regime of lockdowns and testing this month in the face of a surging outbreak and widespread protests.
Global supply chains and trade were clogged as a result of its containment measures, which had caused the economy to grow at its slowest rate in close to 50 years. More disruption is anticipated in the short term before the economy recovers later in the year as Chinese workers get sick more frequently.
On December 22, China reported fewer than 4,000 new symptomatic local COVID cases across the country, and for the third day in a row, there were no new COVID deaths. Many disease experts have criticized the authorities for narrowing the COVID death criteria.
China “is expected to reach the peak of infections within a week,” according to Zhang Wenhong, director of the National Center for Infectious Diseases, according to government-backed news outlet The Paper in Shanghai on Thursday.
“The peak infection will also increase the rate of severe disease, which will have a certain impact on our entire medical resources,” he said, adding the wave will last another one or two months after that.
“We must be mentally prepared that infection is inevitable.”
Zhang claimed he had nonetheless visited nursing homes in the Shanghai area and had noticed a low number of elderly people with severe symptoms.
According to estimates from the government’s top health authority, close to 37 million people in China may have contracted COVID-19 on a single day this week, Bloomberg News reported on Friday.
Stock markets in China, Hong Kong (.HSI), and other parts of Asia were pushed lower by concerns about the short-term effects of China’s COVID wave. Yuan also lost strength.
According to British-based health data company Airfinity, infections in China are likely to be over a million per day and deaths are likely to be over 5,000 per day, which is a “stark contrast” from official data.
A hospital in Shanghai predicted that by the end of the following week, 25 million residents of the commercial hub would be infected. According to experts, China could experience over a million COVID fatalities in 2013.
A fragile healthcare system in China was unprepared for an abrupt policy change, leaving hospitals scrambling for beds and blood, pharmacies scrambling for medications, and authorities rushing to construct clinics.
Beijing continues to experience coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreaks, so medical personnel move a patient into a fever clinic at a hospital.
The failure to vaccinate the elderly and fail to inform the public of an exit strategy, as well as an overzealous focus on eradicating the virus, were cited by more than a dozen global health experts, epidemiologists, residents, and political analysts interviewed by Reuters as contributing factors to the strain on China’s medical infrastructure.
Three weeks into a campaign to immunize the elderly, nothing has come of it. According to government statistics, China’s overall vaccination rate is above 90%, but the rate for adults who have received booster shots falls to 57.9% and to 42.3% for those who are 80 years of age or older.
According to these sources, China spent a lot more money on testing and quarantine facilities over the last three years than it did on improving hospitals and clinics and educating medical staff.
“There is an incredible lack of preparation for the virus coming despite them having … ample warning,” said Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious diseases doctor at Rophi Clinic in Singapore.
There were no comments regarding the criticisms by China’s National Health Commission.
Nine domestically produced COVID vaccines that have been approved for use in the nation are all viewed as less effective than Western-made vaccines that make use of the new mRNA technology.
According to an embassy spokesperson who spoke to Reuters on Friday, a shipment of 11,500 BioNTech mRNA vaccines for German citizens living in China has arrived at the German embassy in Beijing.
The spokesperson stated that the embassy hopes the first doses will be distributed “as soon as possible.”
Since Beijing lifted its zero-COVID policy, the World Health Organization has not received any information from China regarding new COVID hospitalizations. Data gaps may be the result of Chinese authorities’ inability to accurately count cases, according to the WHO.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated on Thursday that all nations, including China, need to share information on their experiences with COVID in light of the growing skepticism surrounding Beijing’s statistics.
Residents of China who once had to spend extended periods in isolation are now becoming accustomed to the COVID epidemic.
The change in policy is welcomed by Chinese teacher Yang Zengdong, whose entire family is quarantining themselves in their apartment in the heart of Shanghai due to mild COVID symptoms. Only a few weeks ago, their building would have been secured and they would have all been sent to a quarantine facility.
“When I think of this situation my feeling is just, wow, we are so lucky because now we can isolate at home,” Yang said.
“This wave is something we have to face, because it is impossible to stay closed forever.”
(Adapted from Reuters.com)