BEIJING (AP) — Patients, mostly elderly, lay on stretchers in hallways or sat in wheelchairs taking oxygen as the Covid-19 outbreak stretched the resources of public health facilities in the Chinese capital, Beijing, even after a reported peak.
Chuyangliu Hospital, east of the city, was overflowing with new patients on Thursday. Even as ambulances continued to bring in more people, the beds ran out by midday. Hard-working nurses and doctors rushed to get information and treat the most urgent cases.
A spasm of people seeking hospital care China last month lifted its most severe pandemic restrictions after nearly three years of lockdowns, travel bans and school closures that have weighed heavily on the economy and prompted unusual street protests in a country where political dissent has been quashed.
The outbreak first spread rapidly in densely populated cities. Now, officials are concerned as it reaches small towns and rural areas with weak health care systems. Several local governments began asking people Thursday not to make trips home for the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday, signaling lingering worries about the outbreak.
Overseas, an increasing number of governments Virus tests are required for travelers from China, which the Chinese government said is necessary because it is not sharing enough information about the outbreak. European Union On Wednesday it “strongly encouraged” its member states to impose pre-departure COVID-19 testing, though not all have done so.
Italy – the first place in Europe hit hard by the pandemic in early 2020 – last week became the first EU member to require tests for travelers from China, and France and Spain followed suit with their own measures. That’s after the US imposed a requirement for a negative test result within 48 hours of departure.
China has criticized the requirements and warned of countermeasures against countries imposing them.
World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday expressed concern about the shortage. Outbreak data from the Chinese government.
At Thursday’s daily briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning said Beijing had consistently “shared information and data with the international community in an open and transparent manner.”
“Currently, China’s COVID-19 situation is under control,” Mao said. “Furthermore, we hope that the WHO Secretariat will take a science-based, objective and impartial position to play a positive role in addressing the pandemic globally.”
The local government’s appeal to avoid travel during the Lunar New Year holiday comes days before the formal lifting of many remaining restrictions – some not already enforced – on Sunday.
“We recommend that everyone not return to their hometowns unless necessary during the peak of the outbreak,” the government of Shayang County in central China’s Hunan Province said in a notice dated Thursday. “Avoid visiting relatives and traveling between regions. Minimize travel. “
Shauxian County in Anhui Province, southeast of Beijing, Qingyang in Gansu Province in the northwest, and Weifang City in Shandong on the east coast have issued similar appeals.
Appeals over the last few years for stricter pandemic restrictions have shown that some authorities are nervous about lifting them too soon.
A notice from the Weifang government said residents should celebrate the holiday with video and phone gatherings.
“Avoid visiting relatives and friends to protect yourself and others,” it said.
Despite such concerns, Hong Kong announced its reopening Some of its border crossings with mainland China close on Sundays and allow tens of thousands of people to cross unblocked each day.
The city’s land and sea border checkpoints with the mainland have been closed for almost three years, and the reopening is expected to give a much-needed boost to Hong Kong’s tourism and retail sectors.
Associated Press reporters Joe McDonald in Beijing and Conice Leung in Hong Kong contributed to this report.