As many as 70% of Shanghai’s population may have been infected with Covid-19 during the surge, a senior doctor at a top hospital warns

On Tuesday, official media claimed that a senior physician at one of Shanghai’s leading hospitals speculated that as much as 70% of the megacity’s population may have been infected with Covid-19 amid China’s dramatic rise in cases.

After years of tight regulations were suddenly relaxed last month without prior notice or planning, there was a sharp increase in infections that swiftly overflowed hospitals and crematoriums.

Vice President of Ruijin Hospital and Covid expert advisory panel member Chen Erzhen speculated that most of Shanghai’s 25 million residents may be infected.

He said in an interview with Dajiangdong Studio, run by the Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily, “Now the spread of the epidemic in Shanghai is very wide, and it may have reached 70% of the population, which is 20 to 30 times more than (in April and May).”

Since April, Shanghai has been under a severe lockdown that has lasted for two months. During this time, over 600,000 citizens have been sick, and many of them have been sent to mass quarantine centers.

However, the Omicron strain is currently sweeping the city, and researchers anticipate a peak in illnesses in the city sometime in early 2023.

Chinese health authorities claim that the wave has already crested in other significant cities including Beijing, Tianjin, Chongqing, and Guangzhou.

Chen also said that his Shanghai hospital was taking in 1,600 emergency patients every day, which was twice as many as before the restrictions were lifted, and that 80% of them were Covid patients.

He was cited as saying, “More than 100 ambulances arrive at the hospital every day,” and “Almost half of emergency admissions were vulnerable people over the age of 65.”

On Tuesday, AFP journalists covering an overflowing emergency room at downtown Shanghai’s Tongren Hospital saw patients getting care in the hallway just outside the hospital’s door.

As millions of people prepare to return to their hometowns for the week-long Lunar New Year public vacation starting January 21, Chinese authorities are ready for a viral outbreak in China’s underserved rural heartland.

Jiao Yahui, an official with the National Health Commission (NHC), acknowledged that managing the anticipated surge in rural regions would be “an enormous challenge” in an interview with state broadcaster CCTV on Monday.

The main concern, according to Jiao, is that no one has visited their families for Lunar New Year in the previous three years, but this year they may.

“As a result, there may be a retaliatory surge of urban residents into the countryside to visit their relatives, so we are even more worried about the rural epidemic.”

She also recognized the strain on hospital emergency rooms and assured that authorities would coordinate medical resources to ensure that patients in poor regions were treated.

In the meanwhile, more than a dozen nations have put Covid testing limitations on Chinese travellers after Beijing announced the reopening of its borders on January 8.

Countries, notably the United States, have highlighted Beijing’s lack of openness about infection statistics and the possibility of novel strains as justifications for travel restrictions.

Since December, China has registered just 22 Covid fatalities, and at the beginning of this month, the country drastically reduced the criteria for identifying such deaths.

Jiao, meanwhile, told reporters on Thursday that China has always made data “on Covid-19 deaths and severe cases in the spirit of openness and transparency” available to the public.

China has always been dedicated to using scientific standards for evaluating Covid-19 fatalities, which are consistent with international standards, Jiao added.

Image Credit: Zhang Yuan/China News Service via Getty Images


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