Chinese hospitals, funeral homes ‘extremely busy’ as COVID spreads unchecked

  • Hospitals, funeral parlors report rising COVID infections
  • China reported three new COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday
  • Some countries consider travel regulations for Chinese visitors

CHENGDU, Dec 28 (Reuters) – Chinese hospitals and funeral homes were under intense pressure on Wednesday as a growing wave of COVID-19 drained resources, and doubts over the scale of the outbreak and official data prompted some countries to consider new travel rules on China. visitors.

In a sudden policy shift, China this month began lifting the world’s strictest COVID-19 lockdown and widespread testing, putting its battered economy on course to fully reopen next year.

According to some international health experts, the lifting of the restrictions, imposed after widespread protests against them, means that COVID can spread out of control and infect millions of people every day.

The speed with which China, the world’s last major country to move toward treating the virus as endemic, has lifted its COVID regulations has overwhelmed its fragile health system.

China reported three new COVID-related deaths on Tuesday, up from one on Monday — numbers inconsistent with those reported by funeral parlors, as well as the experience of countries experiencing less congestion since reopening.

Staff at Huaxi, a large hospital in the southwestern city of Chengdu, said they were “very busy” with COVID patients.

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“I’ve been doing this for 30 years and it’s the busiest I’ve ever known,” said one ambulance driver, who asked not to be named, outside the hospital.

There were long lines at the hospital’s emergency department and adjacent fever clinic on Tuesday evening. Most of those arriving by ambulance were given oxygen to help them breathe.

“Almost all patients have COVID,” said an emergency department pharmacy worker.

The hospital does not have a stock of COVID-specific drugs and can only provide drugs for symptoms such as cough, he said.

The car parks around Dongjiao Funeral Home, one of Chengdu’s largest, were packed. Funerals continued as smoke rose from the crematorium.

“We have to do it about 200 times a day,” said one undertaker. “We are so busy that we don’t even have time to eat. It’s been like this since the opening. “It used to be around 30-50 a day.”

“Many died of COVID,” said another worker.

At another Chengdu crematorium, private Nanling, workers were equally busy.

“There have been a lot of deaths from COVID lately,” said one worker. “All the cremation places are full. You can’t buy it until the new year.”

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China has said it only counts deaths of COVID patients from pneumonia and respiratory failure as COVID-related.

Zhang Yuhua, an official at Beijing Chaoyang Hospital, said most of the recent patients were elderly and had serious underlying illnesses. He said the number of emergency patients has increased to 450-550 a day, up from about 100 previously, according to state media.

The fever clinic at the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing was also “full” of elderly patients, according to state media.

In rural communities, nurses and doctors were asked to work while sick and retired health workers were rehired to help. Some cities struggle with drug shortages.


In a major step toward freer travel, China will stop requiring incoming travelers to go into quarantine starting Jan. 8, officials said this week.

Hong Kong, the global financial hub, also said on Wednesday it would lift most of its last remaining COVID restrictions.

Online searches for flights out of China rebounded from record lows on Tuesday, but residents and travel agencies suggested a return to normal would take months as caution prevailed for now.

Moreover, some governments were considering additional travel requirements for Chinese visitors.

US officials cited the “lack of transparent information” as the reason.

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India, Taiwan and Japan will require a negative COVID test for travelers from mainland China, while those who test positive in Japan must be quarantined for a week. Tokyo also plans to restrict airlines that increase flights to China.

The Philippines was also considering testing.


China’s $17 trillion economy is expected to experience a slowdown in factory production and domestic consumption as workers and shoppers fall ill.

News of the reopening of borders sent global luxury stocks higher, but the reaction in other corners of the market was more muted.

U.S. carmaker Tesla ( TSLA.O ) plans to implement a reduced production schedule at its Shanghai plant in January, according to an internal schedule reviewed by Reuters. He did not specify the reason.

After the initial shock of the new infections wears off, some economists expect China’s growth to bounce back with a vengeance this year, expected to be around 3%, the lowest rate in nearly half a century.

Morgan Stanley economists expect growth of 5.4% in 2023, while Goldman Sachs expects 5.2% growth.

Marting Quin Pollard in Chengdu, Chen Lin in Singapore, reporting in Shanghai and Beijing bureaus; Written by Marius Zaharia; Edited by Lincoln Feast and Christian Schmollinger

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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