By He Jun
With China tweaking its COVID-19 measures, Beijing, which has taken the country’s lead in the change, is currently under pressure from a severe resource shortage in its battle against new coronavirus outbreaks.
There are many resources that are in short supply in Beijing, including medical supplies such as antipyretic and fever medicines, as well as personal protective equipment (PPE) such as N95 respirators, as well as antigen testing kits. Then, there is also the lack of fever emergency and hospital resources, emergency services, doctors, nurses, intensive care units, general inpatient beds, emergency transportation capacity, and others. Finally, there are also insufficient funeral resources. The recent increase and concentration of the death toll in Beijing has put pressure on the city’s funeral system.
There are no accurate official statistics for resource shortages. The current data on infections, in fact, have no reference value. That said, the above is the daily experience of ordinary people in the city.
This can also be seen from what was shared a few days ago by Mao Daqing, the founder of the co-working space provider Ucommune. An elder of his family was infected and later died. His remains were cremated as a matter of urgency. In all aspects of the funeral, the degree of difficulty was completely beyond his imagination. According to what he learned at the Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery, the situation is far from optimistic as every aspect of the funeral industry in Beijing is under enormous pressure. Funeral homes and crematoria are already overloaded and there is a shortage of funeral vehicles. In many cases, the remains of the deceased can only be placed in the morgue because they cannot currently be cremated, 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 gross lack of preparedness in all aspects, the change in China’s policy against COVID-19 has resulted in waves of mass outbreaks. Then, there are continuing shortages of medicines, N95 respirators and antigen test kits. Older people with lower health and weaker immunity became the hardest hit group. Many patients with complications urgently need to be admitted to the hospital caused insufficient emergency system capacity, followed by the lack of emergency departments and ICU hospital carrying capacity. It is understood that in many hospitals in Beijing now a considerable number of medical personnel are also being infected, resulting in an extreme shortage of medical personnel.
The number of patients who have died from serious illnesses is also on the rise. As the country changed the statistical definition of COVID-19 death cases, a large number of deaths from both Omicron infection and underlying diseases will not count towards the COVID-19 death toll. To some extent, this will ease Chinese society’s concern about the death rate caused by the novel coronavirus. However, judging by the recent increase in the number of obituaries in the Beijing area and the continued deaths of known elderly people, the elderly group has been the part of society that has been most affected by the change in measures related to COVID-19.
There is a huge gap in Beijing’s resources to deal with the outbreaks. This is not only due to the emergence of large numbers of infected patients, but also due to previous flaws in efforts to address COVID-19. Under the strict defensive strategy in the past, a large number of financial resources have been invested in a comprehensive virus detection network, close contact isolation, and the construction of a large number of quarantine centers. Because the focus did not shift to therapeutic drug R&D and production in time, there is still a lack of effective Omicron infection-fighting drugs in China.
These problems are not limited to Beijing but are spread across 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 so much so that once earlier measures were eased, even antipyretic drugs and antigen testing kits became in short supply, not to mention free distribution by the government.
As early as August 12, 2021, ANBOUND said that in the phase where the battle against the pandemic has normalized, humanity will live with the new coronavirus for a long time. In such a new era, attention must shift from infection prevention to drug treatment. These judgements, however, have not passed into the decision-making vision of the country. As a result, when China started tweaking its COVID-19 policy, everything had to be done from scratch.
Conclusion of the final analysis:
As China eases its COVID-19 policy, the country has suddenly entered a new phase of living with the novel coronavirus. Because the focus of his work was not on finding and prompt drug treatment, there is a general lack of basic medical resources. In the current transition period, from the Chinese government to scientific research institutions to various pharmaceutical companies, it would be necessary to plan a long-term strategy in this phase of normalization.
He Jun is a researcher for ANBOUND