©Health & Fitness Journal. FILE PHOTO: People wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) stand in front of a funeral home amid the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Shanghai, China, December 24, 2022. REUTERS/Staff
By Bernard Orr and Roxanne Liu
BEIJING (Health & Fitness Journal) – China’s Zhejiang, a major industrial province near Shanghai, is grappling with around a million new COVID-19 infections every day, a number expected to double in the coming days, the provincial government said on Sunday.
Despite a record nationwide spike in cases, China reported no mainland COVID deaths in the five days through Saturday, the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention said on Sunday.
Citizens and experts have called for more accurate data as infections surged after Beijing made sweeping changes to a zero-COVID policy that had placed hundreds of millions of its citizens under relentless lockdowns and battered the world’s second-biggest economy.
The nationwide figures from China had become incomplete as the National Health Commission stopped reporting asymptomatic infections, making cases difficult to track. On Sunday, the commission stopped reporting daily figures, which the China CDC then released.
Zhejiang is among a few areas estimating their recent spikes in infection, including asymptomatic cases.
“It is estimated that the peak of infection will arrive in Zhejiang earlier, entering a period of elevated levels around New Year’s Day, when the number of daily new infections will be up to two million,” the Zhejiang government said in a statement.
Zhejiang, with a population of 65.4 million, said among the 13,583 infections being treated in the province’s hospitals, one patient had severe symptoms caused by COVID, while 242 had severe and critical condition infections from underlying diseases were caused.
China has narrowed its definition for reporting COVID deaths, counting only those caused by COVID-19 pneumonia or respiratory failure, raising eyebrows among world health experts.
The World Health Organization has not received data on new COVID hospitalizations from China since Beijing eased its restrictions. The organization says the data gap may be due to authorities struggling to count cases in the world’s most populous country.
“MOST DANGEROUS WEEKS”
“China is entering the most dangerous weeks of the pandemic,” reads a research note from Capital Economics. “Authorities are now making almost no effort to slow the spread of infection, and with migration beginning ahead of the Lunar New Year, all parts of the country not currently affected by a major COVID wave will soon be affected.”
The cities of Qingdao and Dongguan have each recently estimated tens of thousands of daily COVID infections, which is much higher than the national daily tally with no asymptomatic cases.
According to state media, the country’s healthcare system is under tremendous strain as staff have been asked to work sick and even retired medical workers in rural communities have been reinstated to support grassroots efforts.
The urgency is heightened as the Lunar New Year approaches in January, when large numbers of people return home.
Visits to Zhejiang fever clinics hit 408,400 a day last week – 14 times the normal level – a Zhejiang official said at a news conference.
The daily inquiries to the emergency center in Zhejiang’s capital Hangzhou have recently more than tripled on average compared to the previous year, state television reported on Sunday, citing a health official from Hangzhou.
The eastern city of Suzhou said late Saturday that its emergency number received a record 7,233 calls on Thursday.