After China loosened its rules on preventing pandemics based on its strict zero-COVID policy, the pandemic in Beijing is spreading quickly and affecting more medical staff. Over 700 infections were found at a general tertiary hospital in Beijing, creating massive pressure on the rest of the staff.

On Sunday, December 11, 22,000 outpatient Beijing fever clinic visits were recorded. This number was 16 times the number last week. In addition, there were 31,000 calls to 120—China’s first-aid ambulance hotline on Friday, December 10. This is six times the average.

On Monday, December 12, on a very rare occasion, Beijing officials announced a lack of medicine at a press conference on preventing and controlling COVID-19.

There’s a report by “Badian Jianwen,” a Chinese think tank media focusing on the medical and health industry. According to the report, Omicron has broken through the defenses of many Beijing hospitals in the past two weeks. The number of infected healthcare workers went from dozens to hundreds. In large hospitals in first-tier cities, the number of infections among medical staff went from a few to about a thousand. Cases have increased so much that to some hospitals, their main goal is “Try not to die and keep the hospitalized patients department.”

As more people came in droves to the hospital, the fever clinic was so full to the point of closing. Some people had to wait in lines all night to see the doctor.

A worker at a general tertiary hospital in Beijing said more than 700 doctors and nurses tested positive for COVID in just one day. Almost all of the workers in some specialties need replacement. Only one doctor was left in the department after all others got infected.

In another third-level hospital in Beijing, as of December 7, 700 staff could not come to work every day because they, their family members, or their colleagues got positive for COVID. This number makes up 20% of the hospital’s total staff.

Besides, there’s a second-level hospital in Baoding, Hebei Province, close to the capital Beijing. One-third of the doctors and nurses at this hospital tested positive for COVID; another one-third had COVID symptoms. And the rest one-third who tested negative struggle to shoulder the hospital’s work.

Tian Jing is a doctor from the neonatology department. He said that his department is easy. But doctors and nurses from other departments like respiratory, infection, emergency, and neurology can’t wait for negative antigen results. They have to go back to work despite their unclear status quickly. Otherwise, the hospital could not maintain its regular operation.

Zeng Guang used to be the top scientist at the China CDC. He told The Paper recently that the storm of the pandemic came too quickly, as many doctors got infected. Now, the main focus is how to maintain the regular operation of hospitals. 

Zeng Guang thinks that the huge increase in patients is causing doctors and nurses in Beijing to work, even though they might get infected or have mild symptoms.

Zeng Guang said that if infected doctors and nurses don’t work, the loss will be even worse, and patients won’t be able to get into the hospital, which will cause more problems. Since there isn’t enough medical staff, meeting medical needs is the most important thing. Beijing hospitals have hired retired doctors and nurses younger than 65 to fill the gap left by infected doctors and nurses.

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