China Covid updates: Infections may peak in early Jan; Chinese make a beeline for mRNA jabs in Macau

China Covid updates: Infections may peak in early Jan; Chinese make a beeline for mRNA jabs in Macau

The country's health care system has been under enormous strain, with staff being asked to work while sick and retired medical workers in rural communities being rehired to help, according to state media

People wearing personal protective equipment stand outside a funeral home, as coronavirus disease outbreak continues, in Shanghai (Photo: Reuters) People wearing personal protective equipment stand outside a funeral home, as coronavirus disease outbreak continues, in Shanghai (Photo: Reuters)

Hospitals in China have been struggling to cope with Covid explosion as cases continue to surge, primarily driven by BF.7, a new Omicron subvariant. Here are the latest Covid-related updates from the country of 1.4 billion population

mRNA jabs in Macau

Financial Times on Monday reported that mainland Chinese tourists have been flocking to Macau to get mRNA vaccines as China struggles with Covid explosion.

Beijing has not approved any foreign Covid-19 vaccines for use by its citizens, instead relying on jabs from Chinese groups Sinovac and Sinopharm. Analysts have said these provide lower levels of immunity than western alternatives, which use mRNA technology.

Cities across China have been racing to add intensive-care units and fever clinics, facilities designed to prevent the wider spread of contagious disease in hospitals. The Beijing municipal government has said the number of fever clinics in the city had increased from 94 to almost 1,300, state media said. Shanghai has 2,600 such clinics and has transferred doctors from less-strained medical departments to help out.

'The ICU is full'

Beijing-based doctor Howard Bernstein told Reuters patients are arriving at his hospital in ever-increasing numbers; almost all are elderly and many are very unwell with Covid and pneumonia symptoms.

Bernstein's account reflects similar testimony from medical staff across China who are scrambling to cope after China's abrupt U-turn on its previously strict Covid policies this month was followed by a nationwide wave of infections.

"The ICU is full," as are the emergency department, the fever clinic and other wards, he said.

"A lot of them got admitted to the hospital. They're not getting better in a day or two, so there's no flow, and therefore people keep coming to the ER, but they can't go upstairs into hospital rooms," he said. "They're stuck in the ER for days."

Hospitals in Hebei are turning away patients and the infected are sleeping on benches in hospital corridors or lying on floors as concerns rise over China's Covid surge.

In Heiei, the elderly are getting infected and it has caused an overrun of ICUs and funeral homes. At a hospital in Zhuozhou, ambulances were turned away as the ICU was so crowded, AP reported.

“There’s no oxygen or electricity in this corridor. If you can’t even give him oxygen, how can you save him? If you don’t want any delays, turn around and get out quickly," a health worker told the relatives of a patient.

1 million cases a day in Zhejiang

The true tally of the outbreak in the nation of 1.4 billion people isn’t known,. After sweeping through Beijing, causing widespread infections and overwhelming hospitals, the Omicron variants are spreading across the country, setting off massive outbreaks in major urban centers in the south. 

The provincial government of Zhejiang, a big industrial province near Shanghai with a population of 65.4 million, said on Sunday it was battling about a million new daily COVID-19 infections, a number expected to double in the days ahead.

Beijing, Shanghai residents back to work

Mask-wearing Beijing and Shanghai commuters crowded subway trains on Monday, with China's two biggest cities moving closer to living with Covid, as millions have been infected with the virus across the country.

Subway trains in Beijing and Shanghai were packed, while some major traffic arteries in the two cities jammed with slow-moving cars on Monday as residents commuted to work. An annual Christmas market held at the Bund, a commercial area in Shanghai, was also crowded over the weekend. Crowds thronged the winter festive season at Shanghai Disneyland and Beijing's Universal Studios on Sunday, queuing up for rides in Christmas-themed outfits.

Where does the peak lie?

Health authorities in the southeastern Jiangxi province have said infections would hit an apex in early January, adding that there could be other peaks as people travel next month for Lunar New Year celebrations, state media reported, reported Reuters.

They warned that the wave of infections would last three months and that about 80% of the province's 45 million residents could get infected. The city of Qingdao, in the eastern Shandong province, has estimated that up to 530,000 residents were being infected each day.

Worries remain about the ability of less-affluent cities in China to cope with a surge in severe infections, especially as hundreds of millions of rural migrant workers are expected to return to their families for Lunar New Year.

With inputs from agencies

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Published on: Dec 26, 2022, 2:26 PM IST
Posted by: Jamma Jagannath, Dec 26, 2022, 2:16 PM IST