News3 keys to the "explosive" increase in covid cases...

3 keys to the “explosive” increase in covid cases in China after the end of restrictions to control the disease

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Hospitals in China are facing intense pressure from the surge of patients arriving at intensive care units infected with covid-19, according to information coming from the Asian nation.

In early December, the Beijing government announced a complete turnaround in its anti-coronavirus policy – until then the strictest in the world – and began to eliminate mandatory lockdowns and the extensive testing program, after a series of citizen protests. against restrictions.

With the elimination of mandatory tests, it has become impossible to track new cases in the country, at the same time that the Chinese authorities have made it difficult to count deaths from covid by only registering those caused by pneumonia or respiratory failure under that category. .

In a report from the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CCD) leaked to the press, authorities estimate that nearly 250 million people were infected with covid-19 in the first 20 days of December.

However, the Chinese National Health Commission (CNS) has reclassified covid-19 from a type A disease to a type B disease, that is, it generally does not pose a threat to the lives of healthy people. He also announced on Sunday that he would no longer publish the infection figures.

The lack of official information has led the World Health Organization (WHO) and some governments to demand greater transparency from Beijing about new cases, their severity and the number of hospitalizations.

1. What is known so far?

The full picture is not very clear. Added to the censorship that exists in the media is the government’s decision not to publish the figures for new infections.

Foreign media depend on testimonials, photos and videos posted on social media by users inside China for their coverage of the situation.

In some of the most recent, alarming scenes are seen in hospital emergency rooms, with patients -many of them elderly- lying on stretchers, filling the corridors waiting for a diagnosis or to be admitted.

A journalist for The Washington Post recorded a video showing patients crammed into hallway after hallway, with family members standing near them, blocking their way.

This close contact between the sick and supposedly uninfected people could trigger cases.

According to the US newspaper, state media reported that the emergency unit of the Zhongshan hospital, one of the most important in China, was handling some 1,000 patients a day, between 700 and 800 more than at the same time last year.

By the time the Chinese government decided to lift strict restrictions to control the disease, outbreaks were already on the rise. But since then, infections have skyrocketed, raising the prospect of a high death rate among older people.

The CNS recently asked hospitals to reactivate retired health workers to help with the flood of cases and to replace doctors and nurses who have been infected with covid.

There is also concern that many hospitals no longer have stocks of specific drugs to treat covid and are only offering drugs against specific symptoms such as coughs, a pharmacy worker at a hospital in the city told the Asian newspaper The Strait Times. from Chengdu.

Also, China has lagged behind with its covid vaccination program. In addition, the vaccines it develops and produces are considered less effective in protecting against severe covid infections than the mRNA vaccines used in the rest of the world.

2. How many cases and deaths are there?

The actual number of covid infections and related deaths is unknown because the authorities have stopped publishing the data. The decision was announced last Sunday by the National Health Commission.

“Covid-19 related information will be released by the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention for reference and research,” the CNS said in a statement, without elaborating.

Before making that decision, the Beijing government was reporting about 4,000 new cases a day and few deaths.

The low number of registered deaths may be due to the new way in which the authorities classify deaths from covid, attributing them only to those caused by pneumonia or respiratory failure.

As of December 21, the official death toll for that month was just eight. At the same time, however, crematoria in the capital were having difficulties with the increase in bodies arriving for cremation.

In the report from the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention leaked to the press, the authorities estimate that almost 250 million people were infected with covid-19 in the first 20 days of December, after the dismantling of strict restrictions imposed since 2020 to control the disease.

The figures were revealed by Sun Yang, the deputy director of the CCD, in a closed-door meeting on Wednesday, December 21, according to what leaked to the British newspaper the Financial Times two people linked to that information.

Sun Yang claimed that his calculations included 37 million people infected on Tuesday, December 20 alone, adding that the rate of covid spread was still increasing and estimated that more than half of the population of Beijing and Sichuan was already infected.

A few days later, in an unusual report from a newspaper controlled by the ruling Communist Party of China, the health director of the city Quigdao – of about 10 million inhabitants – assured that they were registering up to half a million new cases a day.

The unprecedented revelation that the wave of infections was not being reflected in official statistics was quickly censored and republished without the figures.

Health experts predict that China will register at least one million deaths from covid in 2023. Airfinity, a British website specializing in the pandemic, estimates that they could exceed two million.

3. What do the WHO and the international community say?

The WHO expressed “very concern” with the evolution of the situation in China and the information that points to an increase in severe infection cases.

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he had urged China to share its data on the severity of the disease, hospitalizations and the capacity of its intensive care units.

In his statement, Tedros insisted that China must carry out the requested investigations to arrive at a full risk assessment of the situation on the ground.

He also said that the WHO will continue to support China to focus its efforts on vaccinating those most at risk throughout the country.

The director of the WHO emergencies program, Mike Ryan, expressed that they would urge China to import foreign mRNA vaccines, such as those from Moderna and BioNTech, which have proven to be more effective against covid-19.

China has not yet approved the use of these vaccines in its population.

Meanwhile, last Monday the Chinese government announced the reopening of its borders and the lifting of the limit on flights abroad.

Less than half an hour after the announcement, internet searches for trips to the most popular destinations increased 10-fold compared to last year.

The authorities in the United States announced this Wednesday that all passengers from China, Hong Kong and Macau will need a negative covid test to enter the country with the aim of “slowing down the spread” of the virus.

For its part, Japan, a popular destination for Chinese travelers, announced that it will also require negative covid tests upon arrival or submission to a seven-day quarantine.

Malaysia, Taiwan and India have also announced restrictions and other countries are considering them.

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