©Health & Fitness Journal. People stand next to a medical worker in a protective suit at a fever clinic of a hospital amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Beijing, China December 15, 2022. REUTERS/Josh Arslan 2/2
By Brenda Goh and Albee Zhang
BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Health & Fitness Journal) – China on Thursday tried to vaccinate its most vulnerable people in anticipation of waves of COVID-19 infections. Some analysts expect the death toll to skyrocket after an easing of the tight controls that kept the pandemic at bay for three years.
The push comes as the World Health Organization also raised concerns that China’s 1.4 billion people were under-vaccinated and the United States offered to help China deal with a spike in infections.
Beijing last Wednesday began dismantling its stringent “zero-COVID” controls, dropping testing requirements and relaxing quarantine rules that had caused mental anxiety in tens of millions and battered the world’s second-largest economy.
The departure from President Xi Jinping’s unmistakable “zero-COVID” policy followed unprecedented widespread protests against it. But Mike Ryan, WHO’s director of emergencies, said COVID-19 infections in China exploded well before the government’s decision to phase out its strict regime.
“Right now there’s a narrative that China lifted the restrictions and suddenly the disease got out of hand,” Ryan said at a briefing in Geneva.
“The disease spread intensively because I believe that the control measures themselves did not stop the disease.”
During the change of course in China, there are increasing signs of chaos – with long lines in front of fever clinics, rushes for medicine and hoarding across the country.
A video posted online on Wednesday showed several people in thick winter clothing hooked up to IV fluids as they sat on stools on the street outside a clinic in central Hubei province. Health & Fitness Journal verified the location of the video.
For all its efforts to contain the virus since its outbreak in downtown Wuhan in late 2019, China may now pay a price for protecting a population that lacks “herd immunity” and has low vaccination rates among the elderly, analysts say.
“Authorities have allowed cases in Beijing and other cities to escalate to a point where resuming restrictions, testing and tracing would be largely ineffective in bringing outbreaks under control,” analysts at Eurasia Group said in a statement Thursday.
“Over 1 million people could die from COVID in the coming months.”
Other experts have estimated the potential toll at more than 2 million. China has so far reported just 5,235 COVID-related deaths, which is extremely low by global standards.
China’s stock markets and its yuan currency fell on Thursday amid concerns about the spread of the virus.
China reported 2,000 new symptomatic COVID-19 infections as of Dec. 14, compared to 2,291 per day. However, the official figures have become a less reliable guide since testing has been halted. It also stopped reporting asymptomatic numbers on Wednesday.
CARING FOR THE ELDERLY
China, which says it has vaccinated around 90% of its population, announced on Wednesday that it would roll out the second COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for high-risk groups and the elderly over 60 years old.
National Health Commission spokesman Mi Feng said Wednesday there was a need to speed up vaccination promotion, according to state media comments.
The latest official data shows China handed out 1.43 million COVID shots on Tuesday, well above November’s rates of about 100,000 to 200,000 doses a day. In total, it has administered 3.45 billion shots.
GRAPH: Daily COVID vaccine doses administered in China (
Citing low vaccination rates for the elderly, a Shanghai nursing home said Wednesday it banned visitors and non-essential supplies, as well as stockpiling of medicines, test kits and protective equipment.
“We are racking our brains on how to ensure the safety of your grandparents,” Yuepu Tianyi Nursing Home wrote in a letter posted on its official WeChat account page.
Beijing has been largely resistant to Western vaccines and treatments, having relied on locally-made inoculations.
Pfizer’s (NYSE:) oral COVID-19 drug Paxlovid is one of the few approved foreign drugs.
However, the treatment was only available in hospitals for high-risk patients, but there have been signs in recent days that it may soon be available on a larger scale. Shares in China Meheco Group Co Ltd soared after announcing a deal to import the US drugmaker’s treatment on Wednesday.
As the virus spreads, President Xi, his ruling politburo and top government officials began a two-day meeting to plan a recovery for China’s struggling economy, sources with knowledge of the matter said.
Political insiders say the leadership is likely to plan further stimulus moves and discuss growth targets in camera at the annual Central Economic Work Conference in Beijing, and the official Xinhua news agency said plans were being made to boost domestic consumption and investment.
China’s economy lost more momentum in November as factory output growth slowed and retail sales fell further, both missing forecasts and hitting their worst readings since May, data on Thursday showed.
Economists estimate China’s growth has slowed to about 3% this year, marking one of China’s worst performances in nearly half a century.