Challenges in China’s Shift of COVID-19 Policy: Shortage of Resources and the Lack of Medications
With China tweaking its COVID-19 measures, Beijing, which took the lead in the country in the shift, is currently under the pressure of a severe shortage of resources in its battle against the novel coronavirus outbreaks.
There are many resources that are in short supply in Beijing, including medical materials like antipyretics and fever medicines, as well as personal protective equipment (PPE) like N95 respirators, in addition to antigen test kits. Then, there is also the lack of hospital and emergency resources for fever, emergency services, doctors, nurses, ICU wards, general inpatient beds, emergency transport capabilities, and others. Finally, there are also insufficient funeral resources. The recent increase and concentration of the number of deaths in Beijing have put great pressure on the city’s funeral system.
There is no accurate official statistical data for the shortage of resources. In fact, the current infection data has no reference value. That being said, what is mentioned above is the daily experience of ordinary people in the city.
This can also be seen from what is shared by Mao Daqing, the founder of the co-working space provider Ucommune, a few days ago. An elderly in his family was infected and subsequently passed away. The cremation of his remains was carried out with urgency. In all aspects of the funeral, the degree of difficulty was completely beyond his imagination. According to what he learned in Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery, the situation is anything but optimistic as every aspect of the funeral industry in Beijing is under enormous pressure. Funeral parlors and crematoria are already operating at overload, and there is a shortage of funeral vehicles. In many cases, the deceased’s remains can only be placed in the mortuary because they cannot be cremated at the moment, which adds even more pressure to the carrying capacity of morgues.
The fact that there are insufficient medical resources in Beijing is no secret. Due to the serious lack of preparation in all aspects, the shift in China’s COVID-19 policy has beckoned waves of mass outbreaks. Then, there are continuous shortages of medicines, N95 respirators, and antigen test kits. Elderly people with lower health and weaker immunity have become the hardest-hit group. Many patients with complications who urgently need to be admitted to the hospital have caused insufficient capacity of the emergency system, followed by the lack of emergency departments and ICU carrying capacity of the hospital. It is understood that in many hospitals in Beijing, a considerable number of medical staff are now being infected as well, resulting in an extreme shortage of medical staff.
The number of patients who died due to severe illness is also on the rise. Since the country has adjusted the COVID-19 statistical definition of death cases, a large number of deaths with both Omicron infection and underlying diseases will not be counted in the death toll of COVID-19. To some extent, this will ease Chinese society’s worry about the mortality rate caused by the novel coronavirus. However, judging from the recently increasing number of obituaries in the Beijing area and the continuous death of well-known senior citizens, the elderly group has been the section of society that is affected the most by the change in COVID-19 measures.
There is a huge gap in Beijing’s resources to deal with the outbreaks. This is not only due to the emergence of a large number of infected patients but also because of the previous flaws in the efforts to tackle COVID-19. Under the strict defensive strategy in the past, a large number of financial resources were invested in a comprehensive network of virus detection, isolation of close contacts, and construction of a large number of quarantine centers. Since the focus has not shifted to the R&D and production of therapeutic drugs in time, there is still a lack of effective medications against Omicron infection in China.
These problems are not limited to Beijing but are widespread throughout the country. After three years of COVID-19 in China, there is still such a lack of research, production, and supply of related therapeutic medicines. This is to the extent that once the prior measures are loosened, even antipyretic medications and antigen test kits have become short of supply, let alone free distribution by the government.
As early as August 12, 2021, ANBOUND stated that in the stage where the battle against the pandemic has become normalized, humanity will coexist with the novel coronavirus for a long time. In such a new era, the focus needs to shift from infection prevention to medication treatment. These judgments, nonetheless, did not pass into the vision of decision-making of the country. As a result, when China started to tweak its COVID-19 policy, everything has to be done from the scratch.
As China relaxes its COVID-19 policy, the country has suddenly entered a new stage of co-existence with the novel coronavirus. Because the focus of its work was not on timely medication research and treatment, there is a general lack of basic medical resources. In the current transitional period, from the Chinese government to scientific research institutions to various pharmaceutical companies, it would be necessary to plan for a long-term strategy in this normalization stage.
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