China initially had nearly three years to learn from the experience of world governments in getting rid of the epidemic. However, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) did not give it the opportunity.
According to Reuters, Beijing reported the first COVID deaths since the policy easing last Friday was “2.”
China’s national health authorities have not reported any official COVID deaths since they lifted the “zero-COVID” policy on December 7. The last official deaths were on December 3 in Shandong and Sichuan provinces.
Experts say that a disordered opening-up leaves the country’s health system and its people unprepared.
The Chinese people have been educated for a long time to have enough fear before the so-called “Crown COVID danger.” However, as soon as the restrictions eased, they rushed to hospitals and hoarded medicine, leading to the current medical crisis.
State media have reported that nursing homes also face shortages of medicine and medical care during the winter when the elderly are most vulnerable.
Observers are concerned for China in anticipation of a large-scale infection wave that could happen within the next few months.
Lawrence Gostin, director of the Institute of National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University, told VOA: “China’s hospitals are full, although they have not yet reached the level of Western countries during the Delta mutant (COVID) epidemic.”
According to an analysis by London-based medical risk firm Airfinity in late November, if China lifted its strict epidemic restrictions, the new coronavirus could infect up to 279 million people and cause 2.1 million deaths.
Jennifer Nuzzo, director of the Pandemic Center at Brown University, told VOA: “When many people seek medical services simultaneously, the quality of care everyone receives decreases. Therefore, this may increase the number of deaths caused by the pandemic, including not only those who died directly from the virus but also those who may not be able to get the kind of high-quality medical care they could have received—and died.”
Three-year-forgotten medical resources
Many experts say that, instead of focusing on developing the health system, China has spent too many resources on nucleic acid testing systems and giant fangcang cabins.
According to The Wall Street Journal, citing the regime’s documents, the budget for the construction of isolation centers this year has risen from less than 1% last year to 9%.
According to estimates released by economists at Goldman Sachs Group in May, based on the frequency of nucleic acid testing every 48 hours and covering 70% of the national population, China’s annual expenditure on nucleic acid testing can be as high as $360 million (2.5 trillion yuan).
Niels Graham, deputy director of the Atlantic Council’s Geoeconomics Center, told VOA: “When Western governments invest heavily in infrastructure, such as expanding intensive care units, purchasing more ventilators, and stockpiling a large number of therapies and drugs for the treatment of the new crown virus to truly treat serious new crown cases, China focuses its resources on controlling the spread of the epidemic, establishing large-scale isolation facilities, and using applications or other mechanisms to track the new crown.”
Facing the insufficient
In recent days, Chinese officials have rapidly expanded medical facilities. At a press conference last week, Chinese health officials said that China’s ICUs have increased from less than four to ten per 100,000 people.
In May, researchers from Fudan University published that the demand for ICU beds will reach more than 15.6 times China’s capacity.
However, providing enough well-trained medical staff is a challenge.
Nuzzo said, “this is not just a matter of building (medical) facilities, but of having enough people.”
According to statistics from the Atlantic Council, China has 3.1 registered nurses per 1,000 people. This rate is lower than in developing economies such as Brazil and far from the 14 nurses per 1,000 people in developed countries such as Germany.
Although China is the world’s most populous country and the second-largest economy, it does not invest much in health. Last year, it accounted for 6.5% of gross domestic product (GDP), which is lower than the world average of about 10% and lower than the OECD average of 8.8%.
Rural areas are the object of concern
But what experts fear most is that a quarter of China’s population is in rural areas, with medical resources lagging far behind big cities like Beijing and Shanghai.
Many hospitals in rural China do not have fever clinics or ICU beds. According to statistics from the Atlantic Council, rural areas in China have 30% fewer doctors for patients than cities.
Chinese health officials say that by March next year, about 90% of town-level medical hospitals will have fever clinics. But this may be too late. People across the country will begin their journey back home to visit relatives during the Lunar New Year in less than a month.
Gostin said, “I expect there will be huge problems in hospitals in rural China. The extreme pressure on some hospitals will be obvious. In some places, hospitals may be overwhelmed, but they are kept secret to save face.”