Covid cases in China: China rushes to install hospital beds as surge in Covid cases raises concerns overseas | world news

BEIJING/WASHINGTON: Cities across China rushed to install hospital beds and building fever screening clinics on Tuesday as the United States said Beijing’s surprise decision to let the virus spread was a concern for the world.
This month, China abruptly began dismantling its strict “zero-Covid“regime of mass shutdowns after protests against restrictions that had largely kept the virus at bay for three years, but at significant costs to society and the world’s second-largest economy.
Now, as the virus sweeps through a country of 1.4 billion people with no natural immunity after being shielded for so long, there are growing concerns about possible deaths, viral mutations and the impact, again, on the economy.
“We know that whenever the virus is spreading, that it is in the wild, that it has the potential to mutate and pose a threat to people everywhere,” the department spokesperson said Monday. of State, Ned Price, adding that the virus outbreak was also a concern for the Chinese economy and hence for global growth.
Beijing reported five Covid-related deaths on Tuesday, following two on Monday that were the first deaths reported in weeks.
In total, China has reported just 5,242 Covid deaths since the pandemic broke out in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019, an extremely low toll by global standards.
But there are growing doubts that the statistics are capturing the full impact of a disease tearing cities apart after China dropped restrictions, including most mandatory testing, on December 7.
Since then, some hospitals have been flooded, pharmacies emptied of medicines and the streets have been unusually quiet, with residents staying at home sick or fearing they might catch the disease.
Some health experts estimate that 60% of people in China – or 10% of the world’s population – could be infected in the next few months, and more than 2 million could die from it.
In the capital, Beijing, security guards patrolled the entrance to a designated Covid-19 crematorium where Reuters reporters saw on Saturday a long line of hearses and workers in hazmat suits carrying the dead to the inside. Reuters could not immediately establish whether the deaths were due to Covid.
healthcare strains
Senior health officials have softened their tone on the threat posed by the disease in recent weeks, a reversal from previous messages that the virus must be eradicated to save lives even as the rest of the world opens up.
They also downplayed the possibility that the now predominant Omicron strain could evolve to become more virulent.
“The likelihood of a sudden and large mutation…is very low,” Zhang Wenhong, a prominent infectious disease expert, told a forum on Sunday in comments reported by state media.
But there are growing signs that the virus is shaking China’s fragile healthcare system.
Cities are stepping up efforts to expand intensive care units and other treatment facilities for severe Covid cases, the state-run Global Times reported on Monday.
Authorities have also rushed to build so-called fever clinics, facilities where medical staff check patients for symptoms and administer medication. Often attached to hospitals, these clinics are common in mainland China and are designed to prevent the wider spread of contagious diseases in healthcare facilities.
Last week, major cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Wenzhou announced that they had added hundreds of fever clinics, according to WeChat government accounts and media reports.
A gym in Beijing’s Shijingshan district was turned into a fever clinic late last week with stalls holding more than 150 beds covering a basketball court, Reuters testified.
The spread of the virus is expected to cripple China’s economy, which is expected to grow 3% this year, its worst performance in nearly half a century.
A World Economics survey showed on Monday that Chinese business confidence fell in December to its lowest level since January 2013.
China kept interest rates on benchmark loans unchanged for the fourth consecutive month on Tuesday.

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