- Hospitals and funeral homes report a surge in COVID infections
- China reports three new COVID deaths on Tuesday
- Some countries are observing travel rules for Chinese visitors
CHENGDU, Dec 28 (Reuters) – Chinese hospitals and funeral homes came under severe pressure on Wednesday as a swelling COVID-19 wave drained resources, while the scale of the outbreak and doubts about official data prompted some countries to consider new ones drag Travel Rules he Chinese visitor.
In an abrupt policy shift this month, China began dismantling the world’s toughest COVID regime of lockdowns and extensive testing, putting its battered 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 unchecked and is likely to infect millions of people every day, according to some international health experts.
The speed with which China, the last major country in the world to focus on treating the virus as endemic, has scrapped COVID rules has overwhelmed its fragile health system.
China reported three new COVID-related deaths on Tuesday, up from one on Monday – figures that do not agree with reports from funeral homes and the experience of much less populous countries after they reopened.
Staff at Huaxi, a major 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 this is the busiest I’ve ever encountered,” said an ambulance driver outside the hospital, who declined to be identified.
There were long queues inside and outside the hospital’s emergency room and at an adjacent fever clinic on Tuesday night. Most people who arrived in ambulances were given oxygen to help with their breathing.
“Almost all patients have COVID,” said an emergency room pharmacy worker.
The hospital has no stocks of COVID-specific medicines and can only provide medicines for symptoms like a cough, she said.
The parking lots around Dongjiao Funeral Home, one of the largest in Chengdu, were full. Funeral processions continued as smoke billowed from the crematorium.
“We have to do this about 200 times a day now,” said one funeral director. “We’re so busy we don’t even have time to eat. It’s been like this since it opened. It used to be like 30-50 a day.”
“Many have died from COVID,” said another worker.
At another crematorium in Chengdu, the Nanling private property, staff were similarly busy.
“There have been so many deaths from COVID lately,” said one worker. “Cremation slots are all booked. You can’t get one before the new year.”
China has said it only counts deaths of COVID patients caused by pneumonia and respiratory failure as COVID-related.
Zhang Yuhua, an official at Beijing’s Chaoyang Hospital, said the youngest patients are elderly and critically ill with underlying conditions. She said the number of patients receiving emergency care has increased from about 100 previously to 450-550 a day, according to state media.
The fever clinic at the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing was also “crammed full” of older patients, according to state media.
Nurses and doctors have been asked to work, while sick and retired medical workers in rural communities have been reinstated to help. Some cities are struggling with drug shortages.
And a big step With a view to freer travel, China will stop requiring inbound travelers to self-quarantine from January. 8, authorities said this week.
The global financial center Hong Kong said so on Wednesday scrap metal most of his last remaining COVID restrictions.
Online searches for flights from China rose from an extremely low level on Tuesday, but local residents and travel agents suggested a return to something normal takes a few more monthsas caution prevails for the time being.
Additionally, some governments are considering additional travel requirements for Chinese visitors.
US officials cited “the lack of transparent data” as the reason.
India, Taiwan and Japan would need a negative COVID test for travelers from mainland China, with those who tested positive in Japan required to quarantine for a week. Tokyo also plans to restrict airlines from increasing flights to China.
The Philippines was also considering testing.
China’s $17 trillion economy is expected to suffer a slowdown in factory production and domestic consumption as workers and shoppers fall ill.
Messages about the reopening of borders are being sent around the world luxury stocks higher, but in other corners of the market the reaction was more muted.
US carmaker Tesla (TSLA.O) plans to run a reduced production schedule at its Shanghai plant in January, according to an internal timeline verified by Reuters. It didn’t give a reason.
Once the initial shock of new infections wears off, some economists expect Chinese growth to rebound with a vengeance from what is projected to be the lowest rate in nearly half a century, around 3%, this year.
Morgan Stanley economists expect growth of 5.4% in 2023, while Goldman Sachs expects 5.2%.
Reporting from Martin Quin Pollard in Chengdu, Chen Lin in Singapore and the Shanghai and Beijing offices; Letter from Marius Zaharia; Edited by Lincoln Feast and Christian Schmollinger
Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.