China’s hospitals overrun after Covid rules eased

Public hospitals in key Chinese cities have been overrun by Covid patients with fever after Beijing announced last week its plan to adopt the “living with the virus” strategy. People have been seen queuing up for an admission to hospitals in cities including Beijing, Guangzhou, Wuhan and Shijiazhuang in the past few days. Health officials in Beijing said people should avoid calling the emergency hotline “120” if their cases were mild. Other patients who chose to stay home could not buy antipyretics online or in pharmacies with some of them paying huge premiums to import Panadol, a painkiller, from Hong Kong. Chinese medical experts said the number of Covid infections will continue to increase in the coming three to four weeks. They said Omicron strains are less pathogenic than the original ones but can still cause pneumonia in those who have chronic diseases or are aged over 80. There are 35 million people aged over 80 in mainland China. As of the end of last month, in only 40% of those cases had vaccinations been boosted. At least 25 million mainlanders aged over 60 had not received even initial vaccination. The Comprehensive Team for Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism for Covid-19 under the State Council on December 7 announced a 10-point notice that Covid patients could choose to quarantine at home while cities should avoid lockdown and reduce PCR tests. The new rules are seen as a major policy change as China is shifting from its zero-Covid strategy to the West’s “living with the virus” strategy. Chinese media reported that hospitals in key cities had been fully occupied over the past one week. In Beijing, many people called “120” for ambulance service while some others were queuing up at hospitals. A Beijing medical staff member surnamed Zhou told iFeng.com that a large number of patients, mostly with fever, sore throat and muscle or joint pains, had come to his hospital since December 3. He said at least half of the 300 medical staff in the hospital had tested positive since then. He said the number of beds per nurse had increased from 2.5 in the past to more than 10 at present. He added that two-third of the 1,000 beds in his hospital were now occupied by Covid patients. A patient surnamed Jiang was quoted as saying that he could only get an admission after visiting five hospitals as most hospitals refused to accept patients with mild symptoms. He said he had spent more than an hour queuing up for medicines in a pharmacy. On Saturday, Chen Xiaoyou, deputy director of the Beijing Ditan Hospital, told Beijing Youth Daily that there were 367 Covid patients at his hospital, one third of whom were aged 60 or above. Chen said the hospital would only receive serious patients from now on while others would be sent to quarantine centers or back home. Wang Yong, deputy director at Beijing Emergency Medical Center, said Monday that over the past few days, the center had received more than 30,000 emergency calls per day, about six times of the normal level. Wang said people with mild symptoms should avoid calling the emergency hotline “120” and stay home or go to hospitals by themselves. He said this could help serious patients get an ambulance more easily. Zhang Wenhong, chief of the Infectious Diseases Division at Shanghai’s Huashan Hospital, said Sunday that medical staff must be prepared for a tough month ahead as the peak of the current epidemic wave will only be seen three to four months hence. Zhang described the current anti-epidemic battle as different from the one in Shanghai during March and May as people can get infected anywhere this time. He said it’s wrong to claim that the Omicron strains only cause infections in people’s upper respiratory systems; cases of pneumonia still exist. On December 5, Xia Gang, an official with the National Administration of Disease Prevention and Control, said it would be necessary to speed up the vaccination program for those aged 80 or above. Xia said many elderly people had not gotten vaccinated as they assumed they would not be infected; some others had been worried about the possible side-effects of the vaccines. He said that as of the end of last year, about 77% of people aged 80 or above had received the first shot while 66% had gotten the second shot. He said booster shots had been administered to only 40% of those in this age group. Zheng Zhongwei, a director at the Comprehensive Team for Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism for Covid-19, said that among those aged 80 or more the death rate for unvaccinated people was 14.7% while the death rates for those who’d received one and three doses were 7.16% and 1.5%, respectively. Currently, there are about 35 million people aged 80 or older in mainland China. About 23% of them, or eight million people, are unvaccinated. If all of those are infected by the coronavirus, 1.18 million of them may die. On December 7, Feng Zijian, former deputy director

China’s hospitals overrun after Covid rules eased

Public hospitals in key Chinese cities have been overrun by Covid patients with fever after Beijing announced last week its plan to adopt the “living with the virus” strategy.

People have been seen queuing up for an admission to hospitals in cities including Beijing, Guangzhou, Wuhan and Shijiazhuang in the past few days. Health officials in Beijing said people should avoid calling the emergency hotline “120” if their cases were mild.

Other patients who chose to stay home could not buy antipyretics online or in pharmacies with some of them paying huge premiums to import Panadol, a painkiller, from Hong Kong.

Chinese medical experts said the number of Covid infections will continue to increase in the coming three to four weeks. They said Omicron strains are less pathogenic than the original ones but can still cause pneumonia in those who have chronic diseases or are aged over 80.

There are 35 million people aged over 80 in mainland China. As of the end of last month, in only 40% of those cases had vaccinations been boosted. At least 25 million mainlanders aged over 60 had not received even initial vaccination.

The Comprehensive Team for Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism for Covid-19 under the State Council on December 7 announced a 10-point notice that Covid patients could choose to quarantine at home while cities should avoid lockdown and reduce PCR tests. The new rules are seen as a major policy change as China is shifting from its zero-Covid strategy to the West’s “living with the virus” strategy.

Chinese media reported that hospitals in key cities had been fully occupied over the past one week. In Beijing, many people called “120” for ambulance service while some others were queuing up at hospitals.

A Beijing medical staff member surnamed Zhou told iFeng.com that a large number of patients, mostly with fever, sore throat and muscle or joint pains, had come to his hospital since December 3.

He said at least half of the 300 medical staff in the hospital had tested positive since then. He said the number of beds per nurse had increased from 2.5 in the past to more than 10 at present. He added that two-third of the 1,000 beds in his hospital were now occupied by Covid patients.

A patient surnamed Jiang was quoted as saying that he could only get an admission after visiting five hospitals as most hospitals refused to accept patients with mild symptoms. He said he had spent more than an hour queuing up for medicines in a pharmacy.

On Saturday, Chen Xiaoyou, deputy director of the Beijing Ditan Hospital, told Beijing Youth Daily that there were 367 Covid patients at his hospital, one third of whom were aged 60 or above. Chen said the hospital would only receive serious patients from now on while others would be sent to quarantine centers or back home.

Wang Yong, deputy director at Beijing Emergency Medical Center, said Monday that over the past few days, the center had received more than 30,000 emergency calls per day, about six times of the normal level. Wang said people with mild symptoms should avoid calling the emergency hotline “120” and stay home or go to hospitals by themselves. He said this could help serious patients get an ambulance more easily.

Zhang Wenhong, chief of the Infectious Diseases Division at Shanghai’s Huashan Hospital, said Sunday that medical staff must be prepared for a tough month ahead as the peak of the current epidemic wave will only be seen three to four months hence.

Zhang described the current anti-epidemic battle as different from the one in Shanghai during March and May as people can get infected anywhere this time.

He said it’s wrong to claim that the Omicron strains only cause infections in people’s upper respiratory systems; cases of pneumonia still exist.

On December 5, Xia Gang, an official with the National Administration of Disease Prevention and Control, said it would be necessary to speed up the vaccination program for those aged 80 or above.

Xia said many elderly people had not gotten vaccinated as they assumed they would not be infected; some others had been worried about the possible side-effects of the vaccines.

He said that as of the end of last year, about 77% of people aged 80 or above had received the first shot while 66% had gotten the second shot. He said booster shots had been administered to only 40% of those in this age group.

Zheng Zhongwei, a director at the Comprehensive Team for Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism for Covid-19, said that among those aged 80 or more the death rate for unvaccinated people was 14.7% while the death rates for those who’d received one and three doses were 7.16% and 1.5%, respectively.

Currently, there are about 35 million people aged 80 or older in mainland China. About 23% of them, or eight million people, are unvaccinated. If all of those are infected by the coronavirus, 1.18 million of them may die.

On December 7, Feng Zijian, former deputy director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said 840 million people, or about 60% of the 1.4 billion population in China, would be infected in the current epidemic wave. He said that, over the long run, 80% to 90% of the Chinese population would test positive. 

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