The national health authority in Beijing said the true number of corona infections could no longer be specified. “Many asymptomatic people no longer do PCR tests, so it is impossible to accurately state the current number of asymptomatic infected people.”

Deputy Prime Minister Sun Chunlan said the number of infections in the capital Beijing was “rising rapidly”.

In light of this, many people in China are stockpiling medicines. Online networks are reporting about sold-out medicines and long queues in front of pharmacies in the capital. Many companies, shops and restaurants in Beijing are paralyzed because a large number of employees are ill.

Hospitals are dealing with an onslaught of COVID patients and are sometimes overwhelmed, while health workers are also getting infected in droves. The authorities called on the population to cure the disease at home if possible and not to flock to the clinics.

Faced with the rapidly increasing number of infections after the end of the strict zero-COVID strategy, Sun Chunlan promised more effective medical treatment and drug supply. Additional fever clinics and more staff are needed.

Above all, older people, children, patients with previous illnesses, pregnant women and other particularly vulnerable groups must be better protected, said the politician during an inspection tour of Beijing health facilities.

She called for a “smooth transition” from previous prevention against the virus to the medical treatment of those infected that is now necessary.

The Deputy Prime Minister also underscored the need to “effectively” coordinate the response to the virus with economic development – seen as pointing to one of the motivations behind the reversal to zero-COVID policy.

The many lockdowns, restrictions on movement and other coercive measures had severely impaired the growth of the second largest economy.

After nationwide protests and a slump in foreign trade in November, the People’s Republic initiated a week ago to abandon its previous strict corona course. Across the country, quarantine rules and testing requirements were initially relaxed or even abolished and the mass closures ended.

On Monday, the authorities also announced the end of the state Corona app, which severely restricted people’s freedom of movement for two and a half years.

Beijing’s leadership’s shift in strategy means the country will now face a wave of coronavirus cases for which it is ill-prepared: millions of elderly people are still not fully vaccinated, and underfunded hospitals lack the capacity to cope accommodate large numbers of patients.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) said China faces a “very hard and difficult” time if it abandons its rigid zero-COVID policy and allows people to live with the virus. This entails considerable challenges in preparing the hospitals and adequately protecting the population. A WHO spokeswoman referred to experiences with the changeover in Australia. “It’s always very difficult for a country that comes out of a situation where you had very, very strict controls.”

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The original of this article “Corona wave in China: government tries to calm down” comes from Deutsche Welle.