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China braces for COVID-19 infections peak

China’s abrupt change in COVID-19 policy has caught a fragile health system unprepared, with hospitals scrambling for beds and blood.

December 23, 2022
By Bernard Orr and Casey Hall
23 December 2022

China is expecting a peak in COVID-19 infections within one week, with authorities predicting extra strain on the country’s health system even as they downplay the disease’s severity and continue to report no new deaths.

In the face of a surging outbreak and widespread protests against, China this month began dismantling its zero-COVID regime of lockdowns and relentless testing, becoming the last major country to move towards living with the virus.

Its containment measures had slowed the economy to its lowest growth rate in nearly half a century, jamming global supply chains and trade. As Chinese workers increasingly fall ill, more disruption is expected in the short term before the economy bounces back later next year.

China reported less than 4000 new symptomatic local cases nationwide for December 22, and no new deaths for a third consecutive day. Authorities have narrowed the criteria for deaths, prompting criticism from many disease experts.Shanghai, noticing the number of elderly dealing with severe symptoms was low.

Infections in China are likely to be more than one million a day with deaths at more than 5000 a day, a “stark contrast” from official data, British-based health data firm Airfinity said this week.

A Shanghai hospital has estimated half of the commercial hub’s 25 million people would get infected by the end of next week. Experts say China could face more than one million COVID-19 deaths next year.

China’s abrupt change in policy caught a fragile health system unprepared, with hospitals scrambling for beds and blood, pharmacies for drugs and authorities racing to build clinics.

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