Faced with Covid surge, China is expanding hospitals and intensive care units

BEIJING: Faced with a rise in Covid-19 cases, China is setting up intensive care facilities and trying to strengthen hospitals as Beijing rolls back virus checks that have confined millions to their homes, crush economic growth and sparked protests.
President Xi Jinping’s government has officially pledged to stop transmission of the virus, the latest major country to try. But the latest measures suggest the ruling Communist Party will tolerate more cases without quarantine or travel or business closures as it winds down its “zero-Covid” strategy.
A Cabinet meeting on Thursday called for a “full mobilization” of hospitals, including adding staff to ensure their “combat effectiveness” and increasing drug supplies, according to state media. Officials have been asked to track the health of all people aged 65 and over in their area.
It’s unclear how much the number of infections has risen since Beijing last week ended mandatory testing as often as once a day in many areas. But interviews and social media accounts indicate there are outbreaks in businesses and schools across the country. Some restaurants and other businesses have closed because too many employees are sick.
The virus testing site in Beijing Runfeng Shuishang the neighborhood closed because all of its employees were infected, the neighborhood government announced on its social media account on Saturday. “Please be patient,” he said.
The official number of cases is falling, but these no longer cover large parts of the population after the end of mandatory testing in many regions on Wednesday. It was part of dramatic changes that confirmed Beijing is gradually trying to join the United States and other governments that have ended travel and other restrictions and are trying to live with the virus.
On Sunday, the government reported 10,815 new cases, including 8,477 without symptoms. This was around a quarter of the previous week’s daily peak above 40,000, but only represents people who are being tested after being admitted to hospitals or for jobs in schools and other high-risk sites. .
Shaanxi province in the west has reserved 22,000 hospital beds for Covid-19 and is ready to increase its intensive care capacity by 20% by converting other beds, reported Shanghai newspaper The Paper, citing Yun Chunfu, an official with the provincial health commission. . Yun said cities are “accelerating the upgrading” of hospitals for “critically ill patients.”
“Each city is required to designate a hospital with a strong overall strength and a high standard of treatment” for Covid-19 cases, Yu told a news conference.
China has 138,000 intensive care beds, Director General of the Medical Administration Office of the National Health Commission Jiao Yahui said at a press conference on Friday. That’s less than one per 10,000 people.
Health resources are unevenly distributed. Hospital beds are concentrated in Beijing, Shanghai and other cities on the prosperous east coast. Thursday’s Cabinet statement told officials to ensure rural areas have “equitable access” to treatment and medicine.
China’s controls have kept its infection rate low but crushed already weak economic growth and sparked complaints about the rising human cost. The official death toll is 5,235, compared to 1.1 million in the United States.
China’s official total number of cases of 363,072 is up nearly 50% from the Oct. 1 level after a wave of outbreaks across the country.
Protests erupted on November 25 after 10 people died in a fire in Urumqi in the northwest. Netizens asked if firefighters or people trying to escape were blocked by locked doors or other anti-virus measures. Authorities denied this, but the disaster became a hotbed of public anger.
Xi’s government has vowed to cut costs and disruption after the economy contracted 2.6% from the previous quarter in the three months to June. This was after Shanghai and other industrial hubs were shut down for up to two months to fight outbreaks.
Forecasters say the economy is likely to contract in the current quarter. Imports fell 10.9% from a year ago in November, a sign of weak demand. Some forecasters have cut their annual growth outlook to less than 3%, less than half of last year’s solid 8.1% expansion.
It’s unclear if any of the changes were a response to the protests.
In an official show of confidence, No. 2 leader Premier Li Keqiang was shown by state media during a meeting with heads of the International Monetary Fund and other financial institutions without a mask on the week. last in the eastern city of Huangshan.
Earlier, Xi had skipped a photo op with Russian and Central Asian leaders at a summit in Uzbekistan in September during which the others did not wear masks.
Yet health experts and economists say ‘zero Covid’ is likely to stay in place until at least mid-2023 as millions of older people need to be vaccinated before restrictions that keep most visitors out of China are lifted. The government launched a campaign last week to vaccinate the elderly, a process that could take months.
Experts warn there is still a chance the ruling party will backtrack and reimpose restrictions if it fears hospitals will be overwhelmed. (AP)


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