China has moved to release hospital beds as officials reported thousands of new cases of the Omicron-led coronavirus outbreak on Wednesday, put millions under blockade and sparked fears for the health care system.
The country registered 3,290 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, including 11 serious cases.
In total, the number fell by more than 5,000 on Tuesday, but the highly transmissible variant is still the toughest challenge to sustain China’s “zero-Covid” strategy.
China, when the first virus case in Wuhan appeared in late 2019, has not officially reported Covid-related deaths for more than a year.
Under strict Covid-19 protocols, the country referred all patients with any previous symptoms to specialized hospitals.
But the huge jump in cases, which has blocked 17.5 million people in the southern technology hub of Shenzhen and caused restrictions imposed on Shanghai and other cities, has raised concerns about bed shortages.
The National Health Commission said Tuesday night that patients with mild Covid cases could be isolated in a central facility in their forties to relieve hospital pressure.
“Patients with strains of omicron are mostly asymptomatic infections and mild cases, most of which do not require serious treatment,” the health official said.
“All admissions to designated hospitals will take a lot of medical resources.”
Images of patients lying on gurney outside Hong Kong hospitals, where the hospital is overwhelmed by a surge in cases, have terrified mainland officials and are now in a hurry to build one-off hospitals in some provinces.
Images of CCTV state television on Wednesday showed dozens of giant cranes assembling “temporary hospitals” in China’s northeastern Jilin province, with more than 5,000 cases reported in the past week.
The province, with a population of more than 24 million, has only 22,880 hospital beds.
As of Tuesday, 6,000 rooms in the railroad-style hospital – first erected in the early days of the Wuhan pandemic – have been set up in the city of Jilin and the surrounding Changchun metropolis to deal with the dreaded arrival of patients.
In addition to blocking tens of millions of people across the country, the recent rise in cases has led to long queues outside mass test sites and tight controls in ports, increasing the risk of disruption to trade.
(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and was automatically created from a union feed.)