China struggles to overcome Covid wave as it spreads to rural areas

Beijing, Jan 3 (EFE).- China is struggling to cope with the coronavirus wave that began late in 2021 and is now seemingly threatening the rural populations, where authorities have called for ensuring sufficient medical supplies.

After the wave crossed its peak in major cities such as Beijing, where normalcy is returning to some extent with traffic increasing and offices getting some of their usual bustle back, now the areas away from the main urban centers have become the cause of concern.

The focus has shifted on rural areas that may not have sufficient medicines to tackle a possible wave during the Lunar New Year, the holiday period when the Chinese usually visit their hometowns, set to fall on Jan. 21-27 this year.

Jiao Yahui, the director of the National Health Commission’s medical affairs department, has urged rural China to be prepared for transferring people with severe symptoms to at least a county-level hospital.

The state council had already urged local governments in December to prioritize health services in rural areas to protect the population, given the “relative shortage of medical care resources.”

Images shared on social networks such as Twitter in recent days continue to show massive pressure on hospitals even as health workers try to do everything possible to save the lives of elderly patients, the most susceptible to dying by Covid.

Influential Chinese journalist Hu Xijin, the former director of state daily Global Times, tweeted that Chinese hospitals were working hard to save lives.

Along with a video of tourism in Beijing during New Year holidays, Hu said on Tuesday that although “the wave of epidemic in China is not over yet, tourism revenue during New Year holiday has already reached a 4% increase over the same period last year. This is likely to be the prelude to a strong economic rebound in China throughout the year.”

The three-day holiday for the western New Year has resulted in the movement of 52.7 million people, in the first holiday period since anti-Covid restrictions were eased in December for the first time in the pandemic period.

This is a 0.44 percent increase from the same period last year and a 42.8 percent recovery compared to the pre-pandemic figures of 2019.

The data shows inter-provincial travel returning back to normalcy after restrictions were lifted, even as Covid continues to spread across the country.

The rapid spread of the virus once the “zero-Covid” policy has raised doubts on the reliability of official data on infections and death, with just a handful of coronavirus deaths being registered even though localities and provinces have calculated a mass surge in cases.

Recently the World Health Organization expressed concern over Covid developments in China and demanded more information, although Beijing responded by backing its data-sharing as open and transparent.

British health sector firm Airfinity has estimated that China is currently witnessing around 9,000 Covid deaths daily.

State media outlet China Daily said in an editorial article on Tuesday that the country had optimized its strategy as per the pandemic situation, as pathogenicity had weakened and vaccination rates were high along with authorities having a better experience in prevention and control.

Now the efforts should be focused on preventing serious cases and deaths, it argued.

The article also warned countries that have imposed restrictions on Chinese travelers.

“The practice is pure discrimination. (The) international travel protocol should be based on science and facts, rather than bias and politics,” China Daily said.

From Jan. 8, Covid would no longer be classified as a Category A disease in China – the highest-risk level that calls for stringent prevention measures – and move to Category B, with more relaxed controls, thus ending the zero-Covid policy, following a series of protests against the restrictions. EFE


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