Severe Covid cases may peak in China’s small, medium-sized cities: Official

An official from China’s National Health Commission said on Sunday (January 8) that emergency and severe Covid cases may peak in the country’s small and medium-sized cities. Jiao Yahui, the NHC official, told state broadcaster CCTV that the demand for emergency and critical care in China’s large cities had likely peaked, but the Lunar New Year travel could trigger faster-rising cases in smaller cities and rural areas, news agency Reuters reported. 

Yahui said around 80 per cent of ICU beds in the country’s top and second-tier hospitals were in use, up from 54 per cent on December 25 last year. The NHC official also pointed out that China’s medical services to treat Covid are facing an “unprecedented challenge.”

At a press conference on Sunday, officials from the health commission said they would not rule out the possibility of taking emergency measures to deal with large outbreaks. 

“In the Covid-19 outbreak, certain emergency prevention measures such as suspending non-essential large-scale activities and suspending the business activities of large entertainment venues can be lawfully carried out in a timely, selective manner,” NHC official Lei Zhenglong said. 

Earlier in the day, the Chinese government reopened its borders and ended quarantine requirements for overseas travellers despite the worsening pandemic situation in the country. On Sunday, travellers streamed into China by air, land and sea. 

ALSO WATCH| China: 40-day Lunar New Year migration begins amid surging Covid

The opening of borders comes a day after the start of “chun yun”, the 40-day period of the Lunar New Year travel. Before Covid emerged, chun yun was the world’s largest annual migration. The government earlier said that some two billion trips were expected this season. 

On the other hand, Chinese nationals are also expected to travel abroad but several countries, due to the fear of a spike in Covid infections, have started imposing curbs on them. Beijing has hit back at these travel curbs. “(Such measures) should not be used as an opportunity to engage in political manipulation, discriminatory practices or affect normal exchanges and cooperation between people,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said during a press conference on Wednesday. 

(With inputs from agencies)

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