Patients in China are forced to wait in beds outside entrances and along hallways as hospitals continue to battle rising COVID-19 infections.
After a longstanding zero COVID policy, China has relaxed many of its strict coronavirus periods and the disease spread rapidly across the country.
In a video clip posted to social media, patients at Zhongshang Hospital in Shanghai could be seen in beds forming part of long queues that stretched outside the main entrances.
Other lines of people waiting for help had formed inside the hospital.
The end to zero-COVID rules in early December unleashed the virus on China, home to 1.4 billion people.
The population has little immunity after having been protected since the appearance of the coronavirus in the Chinese city of Wuhan at the end of 2019.
Many funeral homes and hospitals say they are overwhelmed, while international health experts have warned of at least one million deaths in China this year.
China has reported five or fewer deaths a day since the policy reversal in December.
“It’s totally ridiculous,” one Beijing resident said of the official toll.
“Four of my close relatives are dead. This concerns only one family.
“I hope the government will be honest with the people and the rest of the world about what really happened here.”
Doctors describe chaos in Chinese hospitals
Travelers from China will need to show a negative test
Beijing threatens retaliation over travel rules
Too soon to declare the end of the pandemic, experts warn
The World Health Organization was holding talks in Geneva on Wednesday amid growing international concern over the accuracy of Chinese data on the outbreak.
Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the WHO reiterated to China “the importance of vaccination, including booster doses to protect against hospitalization, serious illness and death”.
“We continue to ask China for faster, more regular and reliable data on hospitalizations and deaths, as well as more complete real-time viral sequencing,” he said.
The WHO says it’s concerned about ‘risk to life’ in China amid an increase in COVID cases, while in Europe and the United States, Omicron’s XBB.1.5 subvariant is spreading rapidly.
The organization confirmed XBB.1.5 is the most transmissible variant to date, but has so far said it does not appear to cause more severe disease.
It evolved from Omicron’s XBB variant, itself an amalgamation of two different BA.2 variants – BA.2.10.1 and BA.2.75.
The recent COVID outbreak in China is primarily driven by Omicron BA.5.2 and BF.7 subvariants, which together account for 97.5% of all local infections.
European Union health officials are also discussing a coordinated response to the situation in China, such as new travel restrictions.