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Asia Minute: China wrestles with another COVID transition

Virus Outbreak China
Ng Han Guan
A man wearing a mask talks on his phone near signs directing visitors to the fever clinic at a hospital in Beijing, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022. A rash of COVID-19 cases in schools and businesses were reported Friday in areas across China after the ruling Communist Party loosened anti-virus rules as it tries to reverse a deepening economic slump.

Mass testing, extensive contact tracing and the sudden lockdown of neighborhoods. All were actions that, until last week, were common across China. Now they all appear to be things of the past.

As the government eases restrictions, staffing at hospitals has been hit.

State-run media report medical personnel are getting sick, and capacity is an issue at many facilities. So-called “fever clinics” have been set up at hospitals to quickly test people for COVID-19.

On Monday, city officials in Beijing said 22,000 patients visited such clinics across the city the day before — which is 16 times the rate of a week ago.

Case numbers remain uncertain but even government officials admit the numbers are going up fast.

Epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan told state media the “ spreading rapidly," with a specific concern about the Omicron variant.

That puts a new emphasis on effective vaccinations, which have been a complication in China.

The government has not allowed any foreign-made vaccines into the country, and they believe that domestic versions based on the original virus found in Wuhan have not proven as effective.

China also has a very low vaccination rate with any kind of shot for those over the age of 65. Government officials say they’re increasing steps to take vaccines to nursing homes and senior housing.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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