SHANGHAI: State media reported on Tuesday that a senior doctor at one of the best hospitals in Shanghai said that 75% of the population of the megacity may have been infected with Covid-19 during China’s huge increase in cases.
After years of strict regulations were abruptly relaxed last month without prior notice or preparation, the infection rate skyrocketed, quickly swamping funeral homes and hospitals.
The majority of Shanghai’s 25 million inhabitants, according to Chen Erzhen, vice president at Ruijin Hospital and a member of Shanghai’s Covid expert advisory panel, may have been infected.
He stated to Dajiangdong Studio, which is owned by the Communist Party’s mouthpiece People’s Daily, “Now the spread of the epidemic in Shanghai is very wide, and it may have reached 70 percent of the population, which is 20 to 30 times more than (in April and May).”
Over 600,000 Shanghai residents were infected during the two-month lockdown that began in April, and many were transported to massive quarantine centers.
However, the Omicron variant is now widespread throughout the city. Health officials in other major cities, such as Beijing, Tianjin, Chongqing, and Guangzhou, have suggested that the wave has already reached its peak.
Disease control officials in neighboring Zhejiang province reported on Tuesday that the province was entering a peak plateau for Covid with one million new infections in recent days.
Chen added that his Shanghai hospital was receiving 1,600 emergency admissions per day, which was twice as many as it had been before the restrictions were lifted. Eighty percent of those admissions were for Covid patients.
He was quoted as saying, “More than 100 ambulances arrive at the hospital every day,” adding that approximately half of emergency admissions were for vulnerable people over 65.
On Tuesday, reporters observed patients receiving emergency medical care outside the entrance of the crowded emergency ward at Tongren Hospital in downtown Shanghai.
Dutzendes of elderly patients were crammed into crowded beds and receiving intravenous (IV) drips, filling the corridors to capacity. A few patients wore breathing devices joined to bedside canisters.
As millions of people prepare to return to their hometowns for the week-long Lunar New Year public holiday that begins on January 21, Chinese officials are preparing for a virus wave to strike China’s underresourced rural interior. On Monday, a representative of the National Health Commission (NHC), Jiao Yahui, acknowledged that coping with the anticipated peak in rural areas would be an “enormous challenge.”
According to Jiao, “What we are most concerned about is that nobody has returned home for Lunar New Year in the past three years, but they finally can this year.” We are even more concerned about the rural epidemic as a result of the possibility of a retaliatory surge of urban residents into the countryside to visit their relatives. She also acknowledged that emergency departments in hospitals are under pressure and promised that authorities would coordinate medical resources to ensure that patients in areas with inadequate funding would be treated.
In the meantime, following Beijing’s announcement that its borders would reopen on January 8, approximately a dozen nations have restricted Covid testing for passengers coming from China.