SHANGHAI/BEIJING: A hospital in Shanghai has told its staff to prepare for a “tragic battle” with Covid-19 as it expects half of the city’s 25 million people to be infected by the end of the year as the virus sweeps through China largely unchecked.
After widespread protests and a relentless rise in cases, China abruptly changed policy this month and began dismantling its “zero-Covid” regime, which has taken a heavy financial and psychological toll on its 1.4 billion of inhabitants.
Yet China’s official death toll since the pandemic began in early 2020 stands at 5,241 – a fraction of what most other countries have faced.
China reported no new Covid deaths for a second straight day on December 21, even as funeral home workers say demand has surged over the past week, pushing up costs.
Authorities, who have tightened Covid death criteria, have confirmed 389,306 cases with symptoms.
Some experts say the official figures have become an unreliable guide as fewer tests are being carried out across China following the easing of restrictions.
Shanghai Deji Hospital, posted on its official WeChat account on Wednesday, estimated that there were around 5.43 million positives in the city and 12.5 million in China’s main commercial hub will be infected by the end of the day. end of the year.
“Christmas Eve, New Year’s Day and the Lunar New Year this year are destined to be dangerous,” the hospital said.
“In this tragic battle, all of Greater Shanghai will fall and we will infect all hospital staff!” We will infect the whole family! Our patients will all be infected! We have no choice and we cannot escape.
In an effort to prevent the virus from spreading across China, residents of Shanghai endured a two-month lockdown that ended on June 1, with widespread loss of income and limited access to basic necessities. . Hundreds of people died and hundreds of thousands were infected during those two months.
Experts say China could face more than a million Covid deaths next year.
The head of the World Health Organization has expressed concern about the spike in infections and backs the government to focus on vaccinating those most at risk.
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters the agency needed more detailed information on the severity of the disease, hospital admissions and intensive care unit requirements for a full assessment.
FREE MEDICINE
China’s policy reversal has caught a fragile health system off guard, with hospitals scrambling for beds and blood, pharmacies for medicine and authorities rushing to build special clinics.
Small towns far from the affluent east and south coast are particularly vulnerable. Tongchuana city of 700,000 people in the northwestern province of Shaanxi, on Wednesday called on all medical workers who have retired in the past five years to join the battle against Covid.
“Medical institutions at all levels in the city are under great pressure,” he said in a public notice.
State media said local governments were trying to tackle drug shortages, while pharmaceutical companies worked longer to increase supplies.
Dongguan, a sprawling city in southern China, said a total of 100,000 ibuprofen tablets had arrived in the city and will be distributed at 41 state pharmacies this week, before being made available free of charge. reported the Global Times.
In Wuhan, the central city where the virus was first discovered in late 2019, 3 million ibuprofen tablets have been supplied to medical institutions and retail pharmacies every day since Dec. 17, according to the report.
Authorities in Sanya in southern Hainan Island have lined up 18 pharmacies to distribute free medicine, while pharmacies in Zhoukou give out up to 10 free pills a day to residents who present ID cards.
mRNA VACCINES FOR GERMANS
Germany said it had sent its first batch of BioNTech Covid vaccines to China to be administered to German expatriates initially. Berlin is pushing for other foreign nationals to be allowed to take them.
These would be the first mRNA vaccines, considered the most effective against the disease, available in China.
China has nine domestically developed Covid vaccines approved for use.
Some Chinese experts predict the Covid surge will peak in late January, with life likely returning to normal in late February or early March.

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