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China’s COVID Epidemic Has Sparked International Worry, Prompting a Rush to Add Hospital Beds

In response to Tuesday’s U.S. statement that Beijing’s unexpected choice to let the virus run free was a worry to the globe, cities throughout China rushed to create hospital beds and build fever screening facilities.

Protests against restraints that had mostly held the virus at bay for three years, but at substantial costs to society and the world’s second-largest economy, prompted China to begin removing its strict “zero-COVID” system of widespread lockdowns this month.

There is rising worry about potential fatalities, viral mutations, and the effect on the economy and commerce as the virus spreads across a nation of 1.4 billion people who lack natural antibodies after being sheltered for so long.

On Monday, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Ned Price said that the viral epidemic in China was also a worry for global growth because “we know that each time the virus is spreading, that it is in the wild, that it has the capacity to mutate and to pose a hazard to people worldwide.”

On Tuesday, Beijing reported five COVID-related deaths, after Monday’s two, which were the first in weeks. Since the pandemic first appeared in Wuhan, China’s capital metropolis, in late 2019, just 5,242 people have died from COVID, a relatively low number compared to other countries.

However, since China eased limits, including most forced testing, on December 7, skepticism has grown that the data are accurately reflecting the true scope of a sickness sweeping across cities.

Since then, many people have shut themselves in, putting a strain on delivery systems as hospitals have been overwhelmed by patients and pharmacies have run out of essential medications.

A deliveryman in Beijing named Zhang, 31, who would not disclose his last name, said, “It’s a bit of a strain to abruptly reopen when the supply of drugs was not fully prepared.” “Nonetheless, I am in favor of the openness.

Health experts believe that in the next months, as many as 2 million people might perish and as many as 60% of the Chinese population could be sick. This would be comparable to 10% of the global population.

Reporters from Reuters observed a lengthy line of hearses and employees in hazmat suits taking the deceased into a designated COVID-19 cremation on a Saturday in Beijing, where security guards monitored the door. Whether or if the fatalities were caused by COVID could not be confirmed by Reuters’s investigation.

Commuters in Beijing, which has emerged as the primary infection hot point, were back on the trains to work and streets were returning back to life after being mostly empty last week. Many were coughing into their masks.

Shanghai’s streets were less crowded, and the subway trains were less than half full, as the city’s COVID transmission rates caught up with Beijing’s.

“Yang, a trainer at a largely empty Shanghai gym, speculated that many were staying away because they were unwell or afraid of becoming sick.

In recent weeks, top health authorities have toned down their warnings about the severity of the illness, reversing their prior stance that the virus must be eliminated to save lives even as the rest of the globe opened up.

They have also downplayed concerns that the currently prevalent Omicron strain would become more dangerous.

An expert on infectious diseases, Zhang Wenhong, was quoted by state media as saying, “The possibility of a sudden major mutation… is quite low,” during a seminar on Sunday.

Evidence suggests the virus is beginning to impact China’s healthcare system.

The state-run Global Times stated on Monday that cities are making more efforts to expand critical care units and other facilities for severe COVID patients.

Fever clinics, where doctors assess people’ conditions and provide them treatment, have been a top priority for authorities. These clinics are widespread in mainland China and are usually located in close proximity to hospitals in an effort to limit the transmission of infectious diseases.

Major cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, and Wenzhou have opened hundreds of fever clinics in the last week, some of them in repurposed sports arenas.

China’s economy, which has been hit hard by the virus, is only anticipated to rise by 3% this year. This would be the lowest result in over half a century. The economics community agrees that sick workers and truck drivers are delaying production and wreaking havoc on logistics.

According to a study released by World Economics on Monday, business confidence in China hit a new low in December, down to its lowest level since January 2013.

A drop in copper prices and stagnant crude oil prices have resulted from weaker industrial activity in the world’s largest oil importer.

For the fourth month in a row, China on Tuesday did not adjust its benchmark lending interest rates.