COVID Cases Skyrocket In Beijing, And Its Streets Are Empty
Last week, China’s National Health Commission (NHC) gave up trying to keep track of all the new COVID cases, announcing it would no longer include asymptomatic infections in its daily count.
Photo Insert: The relatively low number of previously infected COVID-19 patients in China and the lower effectiveness of its widely-used inactivated-virus vaccines against Omicron infection - could enable the virus to spread rapidly.
It had previously reported these cases, albeit in a separate category from “confirmed,” or symptomatic ones, Simone McCarthy and Selina Wang reported for CNN.
“It is impossible to accurately grasp the actual number of asymptomatic infections,” the NHC said in a notice, citing reduced levels of official testing. Authorities on Wednesday morning reported 2,249 symptomatic COVID cases nationally for the previous day, 20% of which were detected in the capital.
Those figures are also thought to be impacted by reduced testing. CNN reporting from Beijing indicates the case count overall in the Chinese capital could be many times higher than recorded.
In a Twitter post, Beijing-based lawyer and former American Chamber of Commerce in China chairman James Zimmerman said about 90% of people in his office had COVID, up from around half a few days ago, Cheng Cheng also reported for CNN.
Experts have said the relatively low number of previously infected COVID-19 patients in China and the lower effectiveness of its widely-used inactivated-virus vaccines against Omicron infection – as compared with previous strains and mRNA vaccines – could enable the virus to spread rapidly.
“The current strains will spread faster in China than they have spread in other parts of the world because those other parts of the world have some immunity against infection from previous waves of earlier Omicron strains,” said University of Hong Kong chair professor of epidemiology Ben Cowling, Wayne Chang also reported for CNN.
The extent of severe disease or death in COVID-19 outbreaks takes time to become clear, but there are signs of an impact on the healthcare system – with Beijing officials urging patients who are not seriously ill not to seek the help of emergency services.
The city recorded 19,000 patients with flu symptoms from December 5 to 11 – more than six times that of the previous week. The number of patients visiting fever clinics was 16 times greater on Sunday than a week prior.
In China, where there isn’t a strong primary care system, visiting the hospital is common for minor illnesses. So far, however, there were only 50 severe and critical cases in hospitals, most of whom had underlying health conditions, Sun Chunlan, China’s top official in charge of managing COVID, said during an inspection of Beijing’s epidemic response.