China’s closely watched reopening is now causing concern as the number of new COVID-19 cases grows and the country reports the first deaths in several weeks.
Much of the news out of China this week is in stark contrast to zero COVID, the strict policy that was in place up until a month ago. In response to widespread protests, authorities have lifted many of the restrictions that limited how people in China were able to move, work and treat their illnesses.
Now some local governments are encouraging people with mild COVID to continue to work. Beijing reported five COVID deaths on Tuesday and two on Monday — the first COVID fatalities to be reported in the country in weeks. Cities like Guangzhou are expanding “fever clinics” that can handle up to 110,000 patients a day, up from 40,000. And basic cold medicines are in short supply.
Chinese authorities have reportedly told state media that the surge is part of an “exit wave” of cases, according to the Financial Times. A headline from Monday’s China Daily, an English-language news outlet in China, reads: “Virus experts expect normalcy by spring.”
Experts have predicted that millions of people in China will get sick, and up to 1.6 million people could die in 2023.
COVID news to know:
• In the U.S., it’s still hard to find children’s cold medications. CVS Health
and Walgreens Boots Alliance
this week put limits on purchases of children’s cold and flu medicines in response to high demand amid a surge in cases of pediatric COVID, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, according to the Wall Street Journal. This includes medications like acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
• Testing positive a second or third time may worsen long-COVID symptoms, according to a study published in Nature in November. However, it can be hard to predict how each new infection will affect an individual patient. “It makes sense that repeat infections would not be beneficial to a person’s health,” one doctor told WebMD. “But I think it’s really hard to know what the additional risk of each subsequent infection would be because there are all sorts of other things in the mix.”
• COVID hospitalizations are rising in the U.S. There are about 40,000 people hospitalized with COVID right now, a figure that is 11% higher than it was two weeks ago, according to the most recent update of a New York Times tracker. The numbers of new infections and COVID-related deaths are also rising this month. The seven-day daily average of new cases is about 66,000, while about 413 people are dying each day.