Beijing expects severe spike in COVID-19 cases; authorities rush to add medical supplies

Amid widespread worries about potential mutations, Beijing may experience an increase in severe COVID-19 cases over the next two weeks, a top Chinese health official and respiratory expert has warned.

Earlier this month, in response to the public protests, China had started dismantling its “zero-COVID” programme of lockdowns and testing, which had mainly kept the virus at bay for three years. The easing was however accompanied by an increase of COVID cases, which experts predict will continue to rise through the winter.

According to Prasar Bharati correspondent from Beijing, as medical resources in the capital city are already under strain from the unprecedented wave of COVID-19 infections, Wang Guangfa, a respiratory expert from Peking University First Hospital, reportedly urged medical institutions to increase the number of Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and other medical resources to deal with the impending wave of infections.

More than 60% of the Chinese population may contract the disease

The BF.7 strain in Beijing primarily causes symptomatic cases which frequently result in extremely high fevers and other symptoms. As per various estimates, more than 60% of the Chinese population may contract the disease in the next few months, as the present outbreak is expected to last until April 2023.

Contrary to numerous anecdotal accounts of fatalities and heavy traffic at funeral homes in Beijing, Guangzhou, and Chongqing, the official figure of seven COVID deaths this week remains inconclusive. According to a report from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), China could experience a worst-case scenario of 1 million COVID fatalities by the end of 2023 as it abandons the “zero COVID” plan it has adhered to for years.

Chinese pharmaceutical facing drug shortages

As an unprecedented wave of Covid infections sparked panic buying of fever and flu medications, leading to widespread drug shortages even outside of mainland China, state media reported that Chinese authorities are scrambling to increase the number of intensive care beds, health workers, and medication supplies. Many Chinese pharmaceutical firms are having difficulty keeping up with the soaring demand for cold and fever medications.

Several significant metropolitan hospitals were reportedly acquiring more ventilators and other emergency supplies, according to state media. According to the report, the biggest problem facing medical institutions is a lack of completely qualified medical professionals for ICUs even as more ICUs are being built. As per the reports, hospitals were urgently hiring personnel from other organisations to retrain them.

A “triplededemic” might increase the death toll

China’s elderly population is under-vaccinated and has underlying health issues and a “triplededemic” of the flu, COVID, and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), however, might increase the death toll and jeopardise China’s already precarious hospital capacity, as report says, citing experience in other western nations.

While many cities are asking COVID-positive people to return to work even if they do not develop symptoms in an effort to revive the economy, experts have cautioned that the situation of the second-largest economy in the world will deteriorate before improving. Due to an increase in Covid cases during reopening and a prolonged slowdown in the real estate market, the World Bank has lowered its predictions for China’s growth for this year and the following year.

China’s real GDP growth is predicted to dip to 2.7% in 2022

According to a research released by the World Bank, China’s real GDP growth is predicted to dip to 2.7% in 2022 before increasing to 4.3% in 2023. The report claims, while China is beginning to loosen its Covid regulations, infections will climb quickly and people may decide to be less social, which might affect consumer demand and cause a further upheaval.

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