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A large number of elderly people in China have died of the covid epidemic, and the authorities’ efforts to promote covid vaccination are difficult to save the tragedy

Chinese medical workers vaccinate the elderly in villages on the outskirts of Shanghai
Chinese medical workers vaccinate the elderly in villages on the outskirts of Shanghai

WASHINGTON — Just three weeks after the Chinese government relaxed its extreme lockdown measures of “dynamic zeroing” under the dual pressure of popular protests and economic downturn, the epidemic has become rampant in major Chinese cities, including the capital Beijing, starting with the elderly with low vaccination rates.

Howard Bernstein, a doctor at a private United Family Hospital in Beijing who has practiced medicine for more than three decades, told Reuters he had never seen so many patients up and down the hospital, and patients were still being admitted to the emergency room. Almost all patients are elderly, and the vast majority of patients are found to have symptoms of pulmonary whiteness after being infected with the virus.

Bernstein’s description of the situation at UFH is broadly similar to that reported by healthcare workers at hospitals elsewhere in China. The avalanche of outbreaks following the sudden easing of lockdown measures not only caught healthcare workers by surprise but also overwhelmed many hospitals and facilities. It is also the worst outbreak that China has suffered since it spread from Wuhan three years ago.

Beijing’s major public hospitals and funeral homes are also overwhelmed by the number of patients and deaths.

“The hospital is overcrowded from top to bottom,” Bernstein told Reuters after a full day of “stressful” shifts.

“The intensive care unit (ICU) is full,” Bernstein said. The hospital’s emergency room, fever clinic, and other wards are also full.

“A lot of people come into the hospital and they don’t get better within a day or two, so patients can’t move, and patients keep coming into the emergency room and they can’t go upstairs to other departments,” Bernstein said. “They stay in the emergency room for days.”

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Bernstein hadn’t treated a single coronavirus patient in the previous month, and now he needs to treat dozens of people a day.

“Frankly, I think the biggest challenge is that we’re not prepared for this,” he said.

Sonia Jutard-Bourreau, chief medical officer at Raffles International Hospital, another private hospital in Beijing, said the hospital now sees five to six times the normal number of patients, and the age of patients has jumped 40 years in just one week to more than 70.

“It’s all about the same,” she said. “The vast majority of patients are not vaccinated.”

Reuters reported that the reporter learned on the ground in many places that medical resources in many places in China have been stretched to the limit, and many medical institutions have reached the brink of collapse.

A nurse at a hospital in Xi’an told Reuters that 45 of the 51 nurses in her department, as well as all doctors and nurses in the emergency room, had fallen ill in recent weeks.

“A lot of my colleagues are positive,” said the 22-year-old female nurse surnamed Wang. “Almost all the doctors fell ill.”

China’s National Health Commission pushed for vaccinations of China’s elderly last month with great fanfare, as medical experts have long warned that such a move would be key to averting a medical crisis in China. However, because many people are worried about the efficacy and side effects of China’s domestic vaccines, many people would rather take risks than get vaccinated.

The Associated Press reported that in some areas, government officials went door-to-door to urge seniors to get vaccinated. Some places also offer monetary subsidies to stimulate the elderly to get vaccinated. A community in Beijing has promised people over the age of 60 that those who complete two doses of the vaccine and one booster dose can receive rewards of up to 500 yuan ($72).

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A 64-year-old Beijing citizen named Li Liansheng told The Associated Press that many of his friends were reluctant to get vaccinated because they had heard horror stories that vaccines can cause high fever, blood clots, and other rare side effects.

“When people hear about these things, they may not want to get vaccinated,” Mr. Li said.

Mr. Lee said a 55-year-old friend of his developed a high fever and blood clots after vaccination. He said he didn’t know if these were side effects of the vaccination, but his friend was afraid to get another shot.

Mr. Li has been vaccinated, but he was infected with the new crown a few days ago. At the moment he still has a little sore throat and cough. “It’s like a common cold, but with a low-grade fever.”

More than ninety percent of China’s population has been vaccinated, but only two-thirds of those over 80 years old have been fully vaccinated.

Because China has a narrower limit on deaths from the epidemic than other countries, excluding many cases recognized as deaths by other countries, even at a time when the epidemic is in full swing and funeral homes and crematoriums everywhere are overwhelmed, the official number of infected deaths is still very small.

According to China’s National Health Commission, there were only six new deaths in December, and the cumulative total number of deaths was only 5,241.

But according to estimates by foreign medical experts, the total number of infected deaths in China could be as high as one to two million by the end of 2023. British medical experts believe that the number of deaths from the epidemic in China should have reached about 5,000 per day.

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