newspaper reportedFinancial TimesChina’s medical staff has warned the leader, Xi Jinping, that the country’s health care system is “not ready” to handle any massive outbreak of COVID-19 in the event of an inevitable departure from anti-epidemic rules.
The British newspaper indicated that the warning was delivered to the Chinese leader by dozens of health professionals – including doctors, nurses and local government health officials.
The newspaper did not mention how the Chinese medical staff delivered the warning to the country’s president, but said that it had interviewed a number of them this month.
“The medical system is likely to be paralyzed when faced with mass cases,” said a doctor at a public hospital in Wuhan, central China, which was the center of the Covid epidemic.
Nearly three years into the epidemic, China’s healthcare system is even more strained than it was at the beginning, as meager funding, staff and medical resources have been redirected toward epidemic control rather than preparations to treat the most vulnerable.
“Over the past few years, China’s health care system has been completely stuttering, putting all its manpower, funding and support into COVID prevention and control,” said a health official in south China’s Guangdong Province.
“This is not sustainable. Unfortunately, the central government has not yet made any fundamental adjustments in the general direction,” he added.
A nurse in a remote city in the southern province of Guangxi said smaller hospitals “do not have the manpower or equipment” to handle the large influx of patients.
China implements a strict policy known as “Zero Covid”, which includes a complete closure of cities and residential suburbs, in addition to strict quarantine requirements and the imposition of daily mass checks on the population, even as most countries in the world have left those requirements that were imposed at the beginning of the spread of the disease.
While this policy succeeded in stopping the outbreak, it also exacerbated problems in the healthcare system and left a large segment of the population deeply afraid of the coronavirus.
Last week, Beijing eased quarantine requirements for close contacts and international travellers, giving hope for a broader easing of its “zero Covid” policy.
Experts said the policy meant China failed to prioritize building strong defenses to a large-scale outbreak, and instead focused its resources on containment.
At the heart of the problem Beijing has created for itself is what many see as an inevitable “exit wave”, a rapid increase in infections as the country scraps its tough restrictions against the pandemic, according to the newspaper.
“The big threat in an exit wave is just the sheer number of cases in a short period of time,” said Ben Cowling, professor of epidemiology at the University of Hong Kong.
“I would be reluctant to say there is a scenario in which the exit wave does not cause problems for the health care system. It’s hard to imagine,” he continued.
The number of official cases of COVID-19 patients in China has reached its highest level in six months, including a record number of infections in the capital Beijing and the manufacturing hub south of Guangzhou.
What makes the situation worse is the elderly’s lack of vaccination against the Corona virus, as only 40 percent of the elderly over 80 years of age received 3 doses of the vaccine.
University of Hong Kong virologist Jin Dongyan said Chinese hospitals could be overwhelmed by an influx of unvaccinated elderly patients if there is a large-scale outbreak of the virus.