China races to support healthcare system as COVID surge raises global concerns

China races to support healthcare system as COVID surge raises global concerns
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  • Authorities rush to add hospital beds, build fever clinics
  • US expresses concern over possibility of COVID mutations
  • Beijing reported five more deaths on Tuesday
  • Security tight at crematoriums amid doubts over death toll

BEIJING/SINGAPORE, December 20 (Reuters) – Cities in China struggled to build hospital beds and fever-screening clinics, as authorities reported five more deaths Tuesday. international interest He grew up on Beijing’s surprise decision to let the virus circulate freely.

China began lifting its strict “zero-COVID” lockdown and testing regime this month after protests against curbs that have kept the virus at bay for three years but have taken a huge toll on society and the world’s second-largest economy.

Now, as the virus ravages a country of 1.4 billion people without long-held natural immunity, there is growing concern about possible deaths, virus mutations and its impact on the economy and trade.

“Every new wave of epidemics in another country brings with it the risk of new variants, and this risk increases as the epidemic grows, and the current wave in China is shaping up to be large,” said Alex Cook, vice dean of research. National University of Singapore saw the Swee Hock School of Public Health.

“But if China is to reach an endemic state in a future free of quarantines and the resulting economic and political damage, it will inevitably have to go through a massive wave of COVID-19.”

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Monday that the potential for the virus to mutate as it spreads in China is “a threat to people everywhere.”

Beijing reported five COVID-related deaths on Tuesday, after two on Monday, the first reported death in weeks. China has reported only 5,242 COVID deaths in total since the pandemic emerged in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019, a very low toll by global standards.

But there is growing doubts about statistics It reflects the true impact of a disease that ravaged cities after China removed curbs on December 1, including most of the mandatory testing. 7.

Since then, some hospitals have been flooded, medicines have been emptied in pharmacies, and many have been forced into self-quarantine, straining delivery services.

“It’s a bit of a burden to suddenly reopen when the drug supply isn’t adequately prepared,” said Zhang, a 31-year-old delivery worker in Beijing who declined to give his full name. “But I support its reopening.”

Some health experts believe that 60% of people in China, equivalent to 10% of the world’s population, could be infected in the coming months. 2 million may die.

In the capital, Beijing, security guards patrolled the entrance to a designated COVID-19 crematorium on Saturday, where Reuters reporters saw a long line of hazmat-clad hearses and workers carrying the dead inside. Reuters was unable to determine whether the deaths were caused by COVID.


In Beijing, which has emerged as the main infection hotspot, commuters, many of whom coughing into their masks, have returned to work and are coming back to life after the streets were largely deserted last week.

In Shanghai, where COVID transmission rates have caught up with Beijing, the streets were more empty and the subway trains were only half full.

“People stay away because they’re sick or because they’re afraid of getting sick, but now I think it’s because they’re really sick,” said Yang, a trainer at an almost empty Shanghai gym.

Senior health officials have softened their tone regarding the threat posed by the disease in recent weeks; this is a U-turn from previous messages that the virus must be eradicated to save lives even as the rest of the world opens up.

They also underestimate the possibility that the currently dominant Omicron strain will become more virulent.

“The probability of a sudden major mutation … is very low,” said Zhang Wenhong, a prominent infectious disease specialist, in comments reported by state media on Sunday.

However, there are growing signs that the virus is shaking up China’s fragile healthcare system.

Cities are stepping up efforts to expand intensive care units and build fever clinics, facilities in hospitals designed to prevent the wider spread of infectious diseases.

Last week, major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Wenzhou announced that they are adding hundreds of fever clinics, some in converted sports facilities.

The virus is also hitting the Chinese economy and is expected to grow 3% this year, the worst performance in nearly half a century. Economists say sick workers and truck drivers are slowing production and disrupting logistics.

A World Economy survey on Monday showed that China’s trade confidence fell to its lowest level since January 2013 in December.

Weakening industrial activity in the world’s largest oil importer limited earnings for crude oil prices and copper to fall.

China did not change benchmark lending rates for the fourth consecutive month on Tuesday.

The news prepared by Bernard Orr and Xiaoyu Yin from Beijing, Xinghui Kok from Singapore, David Stanway and Casey Hall from Shanghai and Humeyra Pamuk from Washington; Written by John Geddie and Marius Zaharia; Editing by Robert Birsel

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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