Beds run out at Beijing hospital as COVID-19 spreads

Beds run out at Beijing hospital as COVID-19 spreads
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BEIJING (AP) — Most of the older men and women wearing masks rested on cots in hallways, while others slept upright in waiting rooms packed with numbered chairs. Many received intravenous fluids, while others were given oxygen. The sound of people coughing, and of new patients arriving on stretchers, was constant.

At the Chuiyangliu hospital in eastern Beijing on Thursday, the signs of the COVID-19 outbreak spreading public health facilities in the world’s most populous nation were on full display.

Beds ran out by mid-morning at the packed hospital, even as ambulances brought in more people. Nurses and doctors in a hurry rushed to take information and triage the most urgent cases.

The crowd of people seeking hospital care It follows China’s abandonment of its toughest pandemic restrictions last month after nearly three years of lockdowns, travel bans and school closures that weighed heavily on the economy and sparked unusual street protests in a country that quashes political dissent.

The outbreak appears to have spread fastest in densely populated cities first. Now, authorities are concerned that it is reaching smaller towns and rural areas with weaker health systems. Several local governments began asking people on Thursday not to make the trip home for the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday, indicating lingering concerns about opening up.

Abroad, a growing number of governments are requiring 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 on Wednesday it “strongly encouraged” its member states to mandate pre-departure COVID-19 tests, 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 tests for passengers from China last week, with France and Spain following through with their own measures. The US requires a negative test result for travelers from China within 48 hours of departure.

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

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director of the World Health Organization said on Wednesday that he was concerned about the lack of Chinese government outbreak data.

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

“Currently, the COVID-19 situation in China is under control,” Mao said.

On Sunday, many remaining restrictions will be lifted, some that no longer apply.

“We recommend that everyone not return to their hometowns unless necessary during the peak of the outbreak,” 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 appeals were issued by Shouxian county in Anhui province southeast of Beijing and the cities of Qingyang in northwest Gansu province and Weifang in Shandong on the east coast.

The appeals, dating back to recent years of strict 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 gatherings.

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

Despite such concerns, Hong Kong announced that it will reopen some of its border crossings with mainland China on Sunday and allow tens of thousands of people to cross every 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.


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

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