- Queues at fever clinics in Beijing, Wuhan
- A top virus expert says the peak could be in a month
- Stocks, yuan slide on concerns over rising cases
- China moves to free up domestic travel
Beijing/HONG KONG, December 12. (Reuters) – People queued outside fever clinics in Chinese hospitals on Monday to be tested for COVID-19, a new sign of the rapid spread of symptoms after authorities began to ease strict restrictions on movement.
Three years into the pandemic, China is beginning to adjust to a world that has largely opened up to COVID, making a major policy shift last Wednesday after unprecedented protests.
It scrapped tests against many activities, reined in quarantines and prepared to shut down a mobile app used to track the travel histories of 1.4 billion people.
Authorities continue to encourage the wearing of masks and vaccinations, especially for the elderly.
But analysts say that with the disease so far low, China is ill-prepared for a wave of infections that could put pressure on its fragile health system and bring business to a standstill.
Lily Li, who works at a toy company in the southern manufacturing hub of Guangzhou, said several workers, as well as those at suppliers and distributors, were infected and in home isolation.
“Essentially, everyone is simultaneously rushing to buy rapid antigen test kits, but they’ve also given up a little bit of hope that COVID can be contained,” she said.
“We’ve accepted that we’re going to have to catch COVID at any moment.”
In Beijing, around 80 people huddled in the cold outside a fever clinic in the upscale Chaoyang district as ambulances drove past.
A Beijing government official said late Monday that visits to such clinics had risen to 22,000 a day, a 16-fold increase over the previous week.
Reuters has seen similar lines outside clinics in the central city of Wuhan, where COVID-19 first emerged three years ago. read more
But official figures show local cases have been falling in recent weeks since a peak of 40,052 cases in late November. Sunday’s figure of 8,626 was down from 10,597 new cases the previous day.
But analysts say the numbers show testing requirements have eased, and health experts have warned of an imminent increase.
In comments on Monday in state-backed newspaper Shanghai Securities News, Zhang Wenhong, head of a think tank at the Commercial Center, said the current outbreak could peak within a month, although the end of the pandemic could take three to six months. far away
In a WeChat post, Zhang’s team said that despite the ripples, Omicron’s current strain has not caused lasting damage and people should be optimistic.
“We are about to exit the tunnel; weather, sun, free trips – all this is waiting for us”, the report reads.
SHARES, YUAN SAG
Chinese stock markets retreated broadly and the yuan eased after hitting a near three-month high last session as investors worried that rising infections could disrupt consumption and production.
But for the same reason, demand for stocks from Chinese drugmakers and suppliers of masks, antigen tests and funeral services has increased.
“Please protect yourself,” management at an apartment building in the capital’s Dongcheng district warned residents on Sunday, saying almost all of the staff had been infected.
“Try not to go outside as much as possible…” says the messaging app WeChat. “Be the first person to take responsibility for your health, let’s look at it together.”
Such messages seem to have reached some who say they don’t want to go to crowded places or dine in restaurants.
That’s why few analysts expect a quick and big recovery in spending in the world’s second-largest economy, as the cheer that greeted the sudden easing has been dampened by uncertainty among consumers and businesses.
But China is working to free up travel across the country, even if overseas travel may take some time.
According to a message on the official WeChat account, the state-mandated mobile app that identifies travelers to COVID-affected areas will be shut down at midnight on Monday.
The number of domestic flights in China topped 7,400, almost double from a week ago, flight tracker VariFlight showed.
Sales of new homes in 16 cities rose last week, partly as curbs eased as people ventured to view homes, the China Indices Academy said.
Reporting by Eduardo Baptista, Ryan Woo, Bernard Orr, Sophie Yu in Beijing, Brenda Goh in Shanghai, Martin Quin Pollard in Wuhan, and Josh Ye and Greg Torode in Hong Kong; Writer John Geddie; Edited by Clarence Fernandez and Nick Macfie
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.