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Covid “spreads rapidly” after measures eased in China

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The wave of Covid-19 “spreads rapidly” in China, warned this Sunday, December 11, an epidemiologist adviser to the government, following the government’s decision to abandon its strategy “zero Covid”.

Chinese health authorities on Wednesday announced a general easing of health restrictions, after angry protests, and also in hopes of reviving the world’s second-largest economy, suffocated by restrictions.

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Shops and restaurants in Beijing were deserted on Sunday as the country awaits a spike in infections with the end of routine and large-scale PCR testing, the option of home isolation for mild and asymptomatic cases, and a more limited use of confinements.

“Currently, the epidemic in China (…) is spreading rapidly, and under such circumstances, no matter how strong prevention and control, it will be difficult to completely cut off the chain of transmission” of the virus, Zhong, one of the government’s top advisers since the start of the pandemic, warned in an interview with state media published on Sunday. “Current Omicron subvariants…are highly contagious…one person can transmit to 22 people”he added.

Unprepared

The country faces a surge of cases that it is ill-prepared to handle, with millions of elderly people still not fully vaccinated and underfunded hospitals that lack the capacity to accommodate large numbers of patients.

The country has one intensive care unit bed for every 10,000 people, Jiao Yahui, director of the medical affairs department of the national health commission, warned Friday.

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She announced that 106,000 doctors and 177,700 nurses would be redirected to intensive care units to deal with the new wave of cases, but did not specify how other hospital sectors would organize themselves.

This Sunday, long queues formed outside pharmacies in Beijing as residents rushed to stock up on fever medication and antigen test kits. The number of reported cases in China has fallen sharply following the government’s decision to scrap mass testing.

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