Beds run short in Beijing hospital as COVID-19 spreads

BEIJING (AP) — Patients, mostly elderly, lay on stretchers in hallways or took oxygen while sitting in wheelchairs amid an outbreak of COVID-19 has drained the resources of public health facilities in the Chinese capital Beijing, even after its reported peak.

Chuiygliu hospital in the east of the city was packed with newly arrived patients on Thursday. Beds ran out by mid-morning, even as ambulances continued to bring in more people. Desperate nurses and doctors rushed to take information and triage the most urgent cases.

The crush of people seeking hospital care follows China’s abandonment of its toughest pandemic restrictions last month after nearly three years of lockdowns, travel bans and school closures that have taken a heavy toll on the economy and sparked protests unusual street scenes in a country that stifles political dissent.

The epidemic appears to have first spread fastest in densely populated cities. Now authorities are concerned that it is reaching small towns and rural areas with weaker health systems. Several local governments began asking people on Thursday not to make the return trip for the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday, signaling lingering concern over the opening.

Overseas, a growing number of governments are demanding virus tests for travelers from China, saying they are needed because the Chinese government is not sharing enough information about the outbreak. The European Union Wednesday “strongly encouraged” its member states to mandate pre-departure COVID-19 testing, though not all have done so.

Italy – the first place in Europe where the pandemic took a heavy toll in early 2020 – became the first EU member to require testing for passengers arriving from China last week, and France and Spain followed with their own measures. This followed the United States’ imposition of a requirement for a negative test result within 48 hours of departure.

China criticized the requirements and warned against countermeasures against the countries that impose them.

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday he was concerned about the lack outbreak data from the Chinese government.

In a daily briefing on Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning said Beijing has consistently “shared information and data with the international community in an open and transparent manner.”

“At present, the COVID-19 situation in China is under control,” Mao said. “Furthermore, we hope that the WHO Secretariat will adopt a scientific, objective and impartial position to play a positive role in the fight against the pandemic on a global scale.”

Local government calls to avoid travel during the Lunar New Year holidays come days before many remaining restrictions – some of which are already unenforced – are officially lifted on Sunday.

“We recommend everyone not to return to their hometown unless necessary during the peak of the epidemic,” the government of Shaoyang county in central China’s Hunan province said in a notice. dated Thursday. “Avoid visiting relatives and traveling between regions. Minimize travel.

Similar calls have been made by Shouxian County in Anhui Province southeast of Beijing and the cities of Qingyang in Gansu Province to the northwest and Weifang in Shandong on the east coast.

The calls, which recalled past years of tough pandemic restrictions, showed some officials remain nervous about lifting them too quickly.

The Weifang government notice said residents should celebrate the holiday with video and phone rallies.

“Avoid visiting relatives and friends to protect yourself and others,” he said.

Despite these concerns, Hong Kong has announced its reopening some of its border crossings with mainland China on Sunday and allow tens of thousands of people to cross each day without being quarantined.

The city’s land and sea border checkpoints with the mainland have been largely closed for nearly three years and the reopening is expected to provide a much-needed boost to Hong Kong’s tourism and retail sectors.

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Associated Press reporters Joe McDonald in Beijing and Kanis Leung in Hong Kong contributed to this report.

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