Chinese funeral homes and hospitals were put under severe pressure Wednesday due to a rising COVID-19 wave. While the severity of the epidemic and questions over the accuracy of official data prompted many countries to reconsider their travel regulations for Chinese tourists.
China abruptly changed its policy and began to dismantle the strictest COVID regime in the world. It has been testing extensively and locking down people, which is putting China’s economy at risk of a total reopening next year.
After widespread protests, COVID was lifted from the market. It is now spreading unchecked and could infect millions every day according to international experts.
China is the country that has moved the fastest to treat the virus as an endemic.
China reports three additional COVID-related death Tuesday, up one from Monday. These numbers are not consistent with funeral parlor reports and the experiences of smaller countries following reopening.
Huaxi is a large hospital located in Chengdu’s southwest. Its staff said that they are “extremely busy with COVID patients.”
One ambulance driver, who refused to identify himself outside the hospital said that he has been working in this field for thirty years.
On Tuesday night, there were long lines outside and inside the emergency department of the hospital. Many people who arrived in ambulances received oxygen to aid their breathing.
One emergency room pharmacy employee stated that almost all patients had COVID.
She said that the hospital does not have any COVID-specific medicines and cannot provide treatment for coughing symptoms.
The Dongjiao Funeral Home, which is one of Chengdu’s largest, was full. As smoke rose from the crematorium, funeral processions continued.
One funeral worker said, “We do this 200 times per day.” We are too busy to even eat. Since the opening, this has been true. It was 30-50 per day before that.”
Another worker said that COVID has claimed the lives of many.
Staff was busy at another Chengdu crematorium owned privately by Nanling.
One worker stated that COVID has caused many deaths recently. All Cremation slots have been booked. One is not available until next year.
China claims that it does not consider deaths from COVID patients due to pneumonia or respiratory failure COVID-related.
Zhang Yuhua is an official from Beijing Chaoyang Hospital. She said that most of the recent patients are elderly or critically ill with underlying illnesses. According to the state media, she said that emergency care has increased from 100 to about 450 to 550 patients per day.
State media also reported that the fever clinic at China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing was “packed” with elderly patients.
Sick nurses and doctors are being asked to continue to work, and former rural medical staff has been hired to assist. There have been instances when cities are struggling to meet drug shortages.
China has announced that it will no longer require inbound travelers to enter quarantine starting Jan. 8. This is a significant step toward freer travel.
On Wednesday, Hong Kong’s global financial center announced that it will remove all COVID restrictions.
On Tuesday, online searches for China flights spiked from very low levels. However, residents and agencies said that a return back to normal could take several months.
Some governments also considered adding travel restrictions for Chinese tourists.
U.S. officials gave reasons such as “lack of transparency data”
Travellers to India, Taiwan, and Japan, would need to pass a negative COVID screening. Those who test positive in Japan will have their quarantine period. Tokyo plans to restrict airlines from increasing their flights to China.
Also, the Philippines considered imposing testing.
China’s $17 trillion economy will see a decrease in output and consumption due to illness among workers and customers.
Global luxury stock prices rose on news of opening borders, while other parts of the market were more cautious.
According to Reuters, the U.S. automaker Tesla (TSLA.O), plans to reduce production at its Shanghai plant’s Shanghai facility in January. The reason was not specified.
Some economists predict that Chinese growth will rebound from the shock caused by new infections once it passes. This year’s rate is expected to drop to 3%.
Morgan Stanley economists predict 5.4% growth by 2023 while Goldman Sachs forecasts 5.2%.