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Under the surging “Epidemic”, residents in Beijing and Shanghai have intensively returned to work, and the wave of “COVID infection” can last for three months

During the morning rush hour on December 26, 2022, Beijing's subway cars were packed with passengers
During the morning rush hour on December 26, 2022, Beijing’s subway cars were packed with passengers

WASHINGTON — On Monday, office workers wearing masks in Beijing and Shanghai packed subways as coronavirus infections in China’s two largest cities grew and the virus was almost out of control, with at least millions of people across the country already infected.

After three years of strict anti-epidemic measures, Chinese President Xi Jinping this month lifted the zero-zero policy and large-scale repeated screening measures in the face of protests and the expansion of the epidemic.

Health experts and the public worry that China’s statistics do not reflect the actual number of deaths and that China’s weak health system is already overwhelmed. Official statistics said no new coronavirus deaths had been reported in the six days until last Sunday (December 25).

The sudden shift in anti-epidemic policies initially shocked society. Many residents of Beijing and Shanghai have been hiding indoors for weeks, either to deal with the virus or to try to avoid getting sick. But there are signs that life is returning to normal.

Metro trains in Beijing and Shanghai were packed on Monday, and some of the city’s main traffic arteries were jammed during rush hour.

Last weekend, the Bund held its annual Christmas market, which was well received by the citizens. On Sunday, Shanghai Disneyland and Universal Studios Beijing enter the winter festival season, with people lining up in Christmas costumes for rides.

Christmas market in Shanghai on December 2022, 12
Christmas market in Shanghai on December 2022, 12

According to the Chinese media outlet 21st Century Business Herald, the number of tourist attractions in Guangzhou increased by 132% this weekend compared to last weekend.

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Analysts said that as the new crown epidemic spreads to manufacturing areas, China, the world’s second-largest economy, is expected to decline further in the short term due to labor sickness, and there may be a rebound next year.

On Saturday, Tesla suspended production at its Shanghai plant, planning ahead to suspend most work at the factory in the final week of December. The company did not give a reason.

Chinese officials have narrowed the definition of coronavirus-related deaths, classifying only those deaths due to pneumonia and respiratory failure as the primary deaths due to the new coronavirus, which has raised concerns among international health experts.

State media say China’s health system is under intense pressure, with sick medical staff being asked to work continuously and some rural areas recruiting retired medical staff to support hospitals.

On December 22, 2022, a sick patient was carried onto a gurney in the emergency room of the Fourth People's Hospital of Langfang City, Bazhou, Hebei Province
On December 22, 2022, a sick patient was carried onto a gurney in the emergency room of the Fourth People’s Hospital of Langfang City, Bazhou, Hebei Province

In Zhejiang province, which has a population of 65.4 million, the local government said Sunday that about 1 million new coronavirus infections are being added every day in Zhejiang, a figure expected to double in the coming days.

According to state media, Jiangxi provincial health authorities said infections would peak in early January. The government also said there could be another peak as next month’s Lunar New Year festival arrives. Officials warn that the wave of infections will last for three months and that 80 percent of Jiangxi’s 45 million residents could be infected.

The city of Qingdao, Shandong Province, estimates that as many as 530,000 residents are infected with the new crown every day.

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Cities across China are adding intensive care units and fever clinics in hopes of preventing the spread of the disease in hospitals.

According to state media, the Beijing municipal government said the total number of fever clinics in the city had increased from 94 to nearly 1,300. The number of fever clinics in Shanghai is about 2,600, and doctors are drawn from less stressed medical departments to support them.

Concerns remain about the ability of China’s less affluent cities to cope with a surge in serious infections, especially as hundreds of millions of migrant workers return home for the Lunar New Year.

(This article is based on a Reuters report)

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