China faces many challenges before the wave of Omicron

China has witnessed a sudden increase in the number of infections, overcrowded hospitals, and a lack of manpower because even people with mild symptoms have to be isolated, and the vaccination rate for the elderly is low.

As one of the last countries to adopt a “No Covid” strategy, China aims to stop all cases by isolating suspected cases and hospitalizing all F0.

This strategy puts a strain on a already-challenged health system, as a highly infectious strain of Omicron hits the country.

Vaccination for the elderly

Beijing says more than 1.2 billion Chinese, or nearly 90% of the population, have received two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine by mid-March. The country also launched a booster injection program, but 50% of the public People still haven’t had their third shot.

The big challenge is protecting the elderly. Currently, only half of people over 80 years old in China receive two doses of the vaccine, less than 20% get a booster shot.

Authorities have been trying to encourage the elderly to get vaccinated after hospitals were overwhelmed with severe infections, most of them patients who had not received the vaccine.

China is using domestic vaccines, the effectiveness rate is somewhat lower than foreign vaccines. Recently, a number of pharmaceutical companies in this country have clinical trials of mRNA vaccines, similar technology to Pfizer and Moderna.

Hospitals are overloaded, lack of manpower

China’s health system is severely understaffed, struggling to cope with an aging population even before the pandemic. According to the National Health Commission, the country has only 2.9 general practitioners per 10,000 inhabitants. In the UK, the number is 2.9 doctors per 1,000 people.

In Jilin province, where a recent Covid-19 outbreak has been recorded, authorities say the hospital bed rate is 22,880 beds per 24 million people.

Peking University researchers warn China could suffer a severe outbreak that would quickly overwhelm the health system if authorities eased restrictions like Europe and the US. According to experts, this move could lead to thousands of new cases every day.

Chinese medical staff take a Covid-19 test sample for a woman in Xi’an city, Shaanxi province on October 20, 2021. Image: AFP

Difference between urban and rural areas

Although the rate of poor households in rural areas has decreased significantly, access to health services in these areas is still far from that of cities.

Most of the infrastructure, modern equipment and professional doctors are concentrated in large urban areas, where the rich live. There are a series of international hospitals and clinics.

According to a report by the National Health Commission last year, rural China has just over 1.6 medical workers and 1.5 hospital beds per 1,000 people. The region only has a total of 1.4 million hospital beds, despite being home to 40% of the population.

Rural Chinese who migrate to cities to work also have difficulty accessing health care services in cities due to the limited situation, epidemic zoning.

Try to maintain the “No Covid” strategy

Despite being the most developed city in China, Shanghai has been plunged into crisis as authorities attempt to put all F0s into isolation in hospitals. The government said it was installing 130,000 more beds in makeshift hospitals. Of which, 40,000 beds are in the famous National Exhibition and Convention Center. But the number of new beds does not seem to be enough because the number of people with mild symptoms and no symptoms is too large.

Meanwhile, citizens of Shanghai under lockdown complained about their inability to buy food and medicine apart from Covid-19.

According to Yanzhong Huang, senior commissioner for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, draconian and heavy-handed “No Covid” measures have overwhelmed the health system.

2,000 military personnel and 38,000 medical staff across the country were dispatched to Shanghai to fight the epidemic. At least two asthma patients have died after being denied admission because of overcrowding.

Due to the pressure on the health system, many close contacts were allowed to be isolated at home. Authorities first started distributing rapid test kits.

Wu Jinglei, director of the Shanghai Health Commission, said this week that the city had doubled the number of ambulances to serve the sick, but it was still not enough to keep up with the current situation.

Thuc Linh (According to AFP)


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