China’s stretched healthcare system braces for spike in COVID infections

China's stretched healthcare system braces for spike in COVID infections
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  • COVID infections may peak next week: Chinese health official
  • China reports no new COVID deaths for third day
  • China not yet ready for a big outbreak: experts

BEIJING/SHANGHAI, Dec 23 (Reuters) – China expects a spike in COVID-19 infections within a week, a health official said, with authorities forecasting additional strain on the country’s health system, while downplaying the disease severity and continue to report. no new deaths.

Faced with the escalation of the outbreak and widespread protests against its “zero-COVID” lockdown and testing regime, China began dismantling it this month, becoming the latest major country to move toward co-existence with the virus.

His containment measures had slowed the economy to its lowest growth rate in nearly half a century, choking supply chains and global trade. As Chinese workers get increasingly sick, more short-term disruptions are expected before the economy picks up late next year.

China reported fewer than 4,000 new local symptomatic COVID cases across the country as of December 2. 22, and no new COVID deaths for the third day in a row. Authorities have lowered the criteria for COVID deaths, provoking criticism from many disease experts.

Zhang Wenhong, director of the National Center for Infectious Diseases, was quoted on Thursday by the Shanghai government-backed media outlet The Paper as saying that China “is expected to reach peak infections within a week.”

“The infection spike will also increase the rate of severe disease, which will have a certain impact on all of our medical resources,” he said, adding that the wave will last another month or two after that.

“We must be mentally prepared so that the infection is inevitable.”

However, Zhang said that he had visited nursing homes in Shanghai and noted that the number of elderly people dealing with severe symptoms was low.

Nearly 37 million people in China may have been infected with COVID-19 in a single day this week, Bloomberg News reported on Friday, citing estimates from the government’s top health authority.

Concerns about the short-term impact of the COVID wave in China boosted stock markets in China (.SSEC)Hong Kong (.HSI) and in other parts of lower Asia. The yuan is also weakening.

Infections in China are likely to top 1 million a day with more than 5,000 deaths a day, a “stark contrast” to official data, British health data firm Airfinity said this week.

shanghai hospital has estimated half of the mall’s 25 million residents would be infected by the end of next week. Experts say China could face more than a million COVID deaths next year.


The abrupt change in China’s policy caught a fragile health system by surprise, with hospitals fighting for beds and blood, pharmacies for medicines and authorities competing to build clinics.

More than a dozen global health experts, epidemiologists, residents and political analysts interviewed by Reuters identified the fault vaccinating the elderly and communicating an exit strategy to the public, as well as an excessive focus on eliminating the virus, as causes of strain on China’s medical infrastructure.

A campaign to vaccinate the elderly that began three weeks ago has yet to bear fruit. China’s overall vaccination rate is above 90%, but the rate for adults receiving booster shots falls to 57.9% and 42.3% for people 80 and older, according to government data.

China spent heavily on quarantine and testing facilities in the past three years instead of bolstering hospitals and clinics and training medical staff, these people said.

“There is an incredible lack of preparation for the coming virus even though they have… ample warning,” said Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious disease doctor at the Rophi Clinic in Singapore.

China’s National Health Commission did not respond to requests for comment on the criticism.

The country has nine nationally developed COVID vaccines approved for use, all considered less effective than Western-made vaccines that use the new mRNA technology.

A shipment of 11,500 BioNTech (22UAy.DE) mRNA Vaccines for German Citizens in China has arrived at the German embassy in Beijing, an embassy spokesman told Reuters on Friday.

The embassy expects the first doses to be delivered “as soon as possible,” the spokesperson said.


The World Health Organization has received no data China on new COVID hospitalizations since Beijing lifted its zero-COVID policy. The WHO has said the data gaps could be because Chinese authorities are simply having difficulty counting cases.

Amid growing doubts about the Beijing statistics, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday that all countries, including China, should share information about their experiences with COVID.

As COVID rages across China, residents who previously faced long periods of isolation are now learning to live with the virus.

Chinese professor Yang Zengdong, whose entire family is isolating in his downtown Shanghai apartment, mildly ill with COVID, welcome the change politics. Just a few weeks ago, they would all have been sent to a quarantine facility and their building would have been locked down.

“When I think about this situation, my feeling is just, wow, we are very lucky because now we can isolate ourselves at home,” Yang said.

“This wave is something we have to deal with, because it is impossible to stay closed forever.”

Reporting by Bernard Orr in Beijing, Casey Hall and David Stanway in Shanghai, Farah Master in Hong Kong, and Chen Lin in Singapore; Written by Marius Zaharia; Edited by Lincoln Festival.

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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