In an abrupt policy shift, China this month began lifting the world’s most stringent system of controls. Covid lockdown and extensive testing, putting its ravaged economy on track to fully reopen next year.
The lifting of restrictions, which came after widespread protests against them, means that Covid is spreading largely unchecked and potentially infectious, according to several international health experts. for millions of people every day.
The speed with which China, the last major country in the world, has moved to treat the virus as endemic, has dropped the rules of Covid has overwhelmed the country’s fragile health system.
China reported three new Covid-related deaths on Tuesday, up from one on Monday – numbers that don’t match what funeral homes are reporting, nor with experience. of less populous countries after they reopen.
Staff at Huaxi, a large hospital in the southwestern city of Chengdu, said they were “extremely busy” taking care of Covid patients.
“I’ve been in this job for 30 years and it’s the busiest job I’ve ever had,” said an ambulance driver outside the hospital.
There were long lines inside and outside the hospital’s emergency department and at an adjacent fever clinic on Tuesday night. Most people who go to an ambulance are given oxygen to help with breathing.
“Almost all patients have Covid,” said an emergency department worker.
She said the hospital does not have a stock of Covid-specific drugs and can only provide medicine for symptoms such as cough.
The parking lots around Dongjiao funeral home, one of the largest in Chengdu, were packed. The funeral took place continuously as smoke rose from the crematorium.
“We have to do this about 200 times a day,” said one funeral director. “We were so busy that we didn’t have time to eat. This has been the case since opening. Before that it was about 30-50 a day.”
“Many people have died from Covid,” another worker said.
At another Chengdu crematorium, privately owned by Nanling, staff are equally busy.
“Recently there are a lot of people dying from Covid,” said one worker. “The crematoriums are all full. You can’t get one until the new year, January 3 as early as possible.”
China said it only counted deaths of Covid patients from pneumonia and respiratory failure as Covid-related.
Truong Ngoc Hoa, an official at Beijing Chaoyang Hospital, said most of the recent patients were elderly and had serious illnesses. She said the number of patients receiving urgent care had increased to 450-550 a day, from about 100 before, according to state media.
The fever clinic of the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing was also “packed” with gray-haired patients, state media reported.
Nurses and doctors have been asked to work while sick and retired health workers in rural communities are rehired to help. Some cities have struggled to secure supplies of fever-reducing medicine.
In an important step towards freer travel, China will stop requiring domestic travelers to be quarantined from January 8, authorities said this week, prompting many Chinese, who who have been isolated from the world for so long, must check travel platforms.
But while online searches for flights spiked on Tuesday from extreme lows, residents and travel agencies reckon a return to things as usual will take months, as for now. still need to be careful.
Furthermore, some governments are considering additional travel requirements for Chinese visitors.
US officials cite the “lack of transparent data” as the reason for doing so.
India and Japan will require a negative Covid test for travelers from mainland China, with those who test positive in Japan having to undergo a week of quarantine. Tokyo also plans to restrict airlines from increasing flights to China.
The Philippines is also considering imposing tests.”
China’s $17 trillion economy is expected to suffer from a decline in factory output and domestic consumption as workers and shoppers fall ill.
News of the reopening of borders sent global luxury stocks higher, but the reaction in other corners of the market was more muted.
US carmaker Tesla plans to reduce its production schedule at its Shanghai plant in January, according to an internal schedule reviewed by Reuters. It does not specify a reason.
Once the initial shock of new infections wears off, some economists expect China’s growth to bounce back with a rebound from this year’s levels predicted to be the lowest rate in nearly half. century, about 3%.
Morgan Stanley economists expect 5.4% growth in 2023, while those in Goldman book found 5.2%.