- Hospitals and funeral homes report rise in COVID infections
- China reports three new COVID deaths on Tuesday
- Some countries consider travel rules for Chinese visitors
CHENGDU, Dec 28 (Reuters) – China’s hospitals and funeral homes were under intense pressure on Wednesday as a wave of COVID-19 sapped resources, while the scale of the outbreak and doubts over official data have prompted some countries to consider new travel rules on Chinese people. visitors.
In a sharp shift in policy, China this month began dismantling the world’s strictest COVID regime of lockdowns and extensive testing, putting its struggling economy on track for a full reopening next year.
The lifting of restrictions, which came after widespread protests against them, means COVID is spreading largely out of control and likely infecting millions of people a day, some international health experts say.
The speed at which China, the last major country in the world to move towards treating the virus as endemic, has abandoned COVID rules has left its fragile healthcare system overwhelmed.
China reported three new COVID-related deaths on Tuesday, up from one on Monday — numbers that don’t match what funeral homes are reporting, as well as the experience of countries with far fewer populations after reopening.
Staff at Huaxi, a large hospital in the southwestern city of Chengdu, said they were “extremely busy” with COVID patients.
“I’ve been doing this job for 30 years and it’s the busiest I’ve ever had,” said an ambulance driver outside the hospital who declined to be identified.
There were long queues inside and outside the hospital’s emergency department and at an adjacent fever clinic on Tuesday evening. Most of those arriving by ambulance were given oxygen to help them breathe.
“Almost all patients have COVID,” said a staff member at the emergency department pharmacy.
The hospital does not have a stockpile of COVID-specific drugs and can only provide drugs for symptoms such as cough, she said.
The parking lots around Dongjiao Funeral Home, one of the largest in Chengdu, were full. Funeral processions were constant as smoke billowed from the crematorium.
“We have to do it about 200 times a day now,” said one funeral worker. “We are so busy that we don’t even have time to eat. This has been the case since the opening. Before, it was around 30 to 50 a day.
“Many have died from COVID,” said another worker.
At another Chengdu crematorium, Nanling, which is privately owned, staff were just as busy.
“There have been so many deaths from COVID lately,” one worker said. “The cremation slots are all full. You can’t get one until the new year.
China said it only counts COVID patient deaths caused by pneumonia and respiratory failure as COVID-related.
Zhang Yuhua, an official at Chaoyang Hospital in Beijing, said the most recent patients were elderly and seriously ill with underlying illnesses. She said the number of patients receiving emergency care had risen to 450-550 a day from around 100 previously, according to state media.
The fever clinic at China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing was also “full” of elderly patients, state media reported.
Nurses and doctors were asked to work while sick and retired medical workers from rural communities were rehired to help. Some cities are struggling with drug shortages.
In a major step towards freer travel, China will stop requiring incoming travelers to self-quarantine from January 8, authorities announced this week.
Hong Kong’s global financial hub also said on Wednesday it would remove most of its last remaining COVID restrictions.
Online searches for flights from China rose from extremely low levels on Tuesday, but residents and travel agencies suggested a return to something like normal would take another few months as caution prevails for the moment.
Additionally, some governments were considering additional travel requirements for Chinese visitors.
US officials cited “lack of transparent data” as the reason for doing so.
India, Taiwan and Japan would require a negative COVID test for travelers from mainland China, with those testing positive in Japan having to undergo a week of quarantine. Tokyo also plans to limit airline flights to China.
The Philippines was also considering imposing testing.
China’s $17 trillion economy is set to suffer a slowdown in industrial production and domestic consumption as workers and shoppers fall ill.
News of the reopening of borders sent global luxury stocks higher, but the reaction was more subdued in other corners of the market.
U.S. automaker Tesla (TSLA.O) plans to run a reduced production schedule at its Shanghai plant in January, according to an internal schedule reviewed by Reuters. He did not specify a reason.
Once the initial shock of new infections has passed, some economists expect Chinese growth to rebound with a vengeance from what this year is expected to be its lowest rate in nearly half a century, somewhere around by 3%.
Economists at Morgan Stanley expect growth of 5.4% in 2023, while those at Goldman Sachs expect 5.2%.
Reporting by Marting Quin Pollard in Chengdu, Chen Lin in Singapore and bureaus in Shanghai and Beijing; Written by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Christian Schmollinger
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