Rising Covid wave in China

ByRao Tashfain

Banker with an interest in international affairs


January 2, 2023

Rao Tashfain describes the return of scourge in China

It is very worrying to note that the Rising Covid wave in China pandemic has returned to China with a vengeance. The situation is quite ironic as the pandemic originated from China and it is also a fact that China was the first country that succeeded in containing the virus and now it is again experiencing a horrible recurrence. When the pandemic first broke China virtually cut off links between its cities along with rest of the world and it is very disturbing to witness China once again cutting itself off from the rest of the world. Moreover, Rising Covid wave in Chinais now experiencing the planet’s biggest surge in infections after abruptly lifting restrictions that torpedoed the economy earlier. The severity of the recurrence has compelled Chinese President Xi to come in the field urging the officials to take steps to protect lives of the people. The situation is perceived to very serious as some estimates project that around one million people could die over the next few months. The most vulnerable are the elderly, tens of thousands of whom are feared to succumb to the virus. Contrary to the stance taken by official Chinese authorities, it is reported that more than 5,000 people are probably dying each day.

The recurrence of Rising Covid wave in China has heavily impacted the population with many people now grappling with shortages of medicine, while emergency medical facilities are strained by an influx of under-vaccinated elderly patients. The current situation has put extreme pressure on hospitals with crematoriums across the country overflowing with Covid patients and victims and the pressure is such that China’s National Health Commission announced that it would stop publishing daily nationwide infection and death statistics. China’s censors and mouthpieces have been working overtime to spin the decision to scrap strict travel curbs, quarantines and snap lockdowns as a victory, even as cases soar. Beijing narrowed the criteria by which Covid-19 fatalities were counted a move experts said would suppress the number of deaths attributable to the virus. Chinese health authorities have admitted that the scale of the outbreak has become impossible to track following the end of mandatory mass testing, as people are now not obliged to declare test results to authorities.

The winter surge has come ahead of two major public holidays next month, in which millions of migrant workers are expected to travel to their hometowns to reunite with relatives. Patients are arriving at hospitals in ever-increasing numbers; almost all are elderly and many are very unwell with Covid-19 and pneumonia symptoms. Authorities are bracing for the virus to hit under-resourced rural areas hard and called for the guaranteed supply of drugs and medical treatment during New Year’s Day and the week-long Lunar New Year holiday which begins on 21 January. Elsewhere in China, medical staff has mentioned that resources are already stretched to the breaking point in some cases as Covid-19 and sickness levels amongst staff have been particularly high. The severity of the virus could be gauged from the fact that in the western city of Xian 45 out of 51 nurses in the department along with all staff in the emergency department have caught it recently.

The current recurrence is by far the country’s biggest outbreak since the pandemic began in the central city of Wuhan three years ago. Beijing government hospitals and crematoriums also have been struggling this month amid heavy demand. It is also reported that staff attendance has been down more than 50 per cent in wards, and most hospitals have stopped accepting new patients. The para-medical staff is working shifts of more than 16 hours with insufficient support. Many observers point out that the abrupt U-turn taken by the Chinese government from its strict Covid-19 policies this month has followed the nationwide wave of infections. This step was taken as President Xi’s government came under criticism for the tough social controls that were retarding economic activity and the resultant public protests were considered as the rare demonstration of public anger that put plenty of pressure on the government that finally caved in and relaxed controls.

Most Chinese apparently were unprepared for the recurrence of the pandemic that is now so severe that patient numbers have jumped five to six times their normal levels with patients’ average age shooting up by about 40 years to over 70 in the space of a week. The healthcare officials concede that most of the patients have not been vaccinated. In this context, patients and their relatives have swarmed around hospitals to buy Paxlovid, the Pfizer-made Covid-19 treatment, which many hospitals report places are running low in supply. In recent days, health officials in the wealthy coastal province Zhejiang estimated that 1 million residents were being infected per day, while the coastal city of Qingdao predicted roughly 500,000 new daily infections and the southern manufacturing city of Dongguan reported 250,000 to 300,000. TW

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