- China’s hospitals are under so much pressure, following the country’s rapid 180-degree shift in Covid policy,
- Doctors and nurses could be infecting patients.
- Frontline medical workers are being told to come in even if they have the virus themselves because of staff shortages.
A Chinese professor, Chen Xi specializing in health policy, has been monitoring the crisis in his home country from Yale University in the United States. China’s hospitals have hastily increased their fever ward capacity to meet a huge influx of patients, but these have been filling up quickly, in part because the message is still not getting through that it is all right to stay at home if you catch the virus.
Prof Chen says much more needs to be done to explain this to people. “There is no culture of staying at home for minor symptoms,” he said. “When people feel sick they all go to hospitals, which may easily crash the healthcare system.”
A rush on pharmacies has led to significant nationwide shortages of medicine used to treat a cold or the flu. Home testing kits for Covid are also hard to come by. This all makes sense when you consider that, just weeks ago, the government was saying that there will be no swerving from zero-Covid, that those infected must go to centralized quarantine facilities and that lockdowns were necessary.
Now the goal of returning each outbreak to zero cases has been abandoned, Covid is spreading like wildfire and the line from the government is that catching this disease is not something to worry about. China’s easing of Covid restrictions was expected to unfold more slowly, much more gradually.
Then came street protests, in city after city, with demonstrators demanding their old lives back. They wanted to be free to move around again. There were clashes with police and the chant was going up for China’s leader Xi Jinping to resign and for the Communist Party to give up power.
According to Prof Chen, this meant that the timing of China’s reopening was “not ideal” but they had to do it. He said countries like Singapore and New Zealand made their changes when infections were at bay. However, China has moved with full-blown outbreaks under way in cities like Beijing. The government “heard the voice of the protesters”, he said, but added that this was not the ideal choice for them in terms of timing.
So the protesters may have won, but the speed of the cave-in from the government has left elderly people afraid to leave their homes. The impact on Beijing has been great.
A 34-year-old woman, who is isolating at home after catching Covid, said that the experience, so far, has been surprisingly smooth. She said her symptoms have not been as bad as she had expected them to be and that she has everything she needs. However, she too worries. She has a sister with young children, parents living alone in their hometown and a grandmother who all have to get through this period.
Doctors are taking to social media in an attempt to reassure people that it is fine for them to remain at home after they catch Covid.
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