BEIJING ( Associated Press) – Several local governments in China this week encouraged people with mild cases of COVID-19 to come to work, another sign of hardship as the country rolls back virus containment measures. The signal triggers a wave of infections and rising numbers. Of deaths
Five people have died in Beijing in the past 24 hours, health officials said Tuesday, raising concerns that the death toll could rise sharply after most “zero COVID” restrictions are lifted. The official numbers probably underestimate the actual numbers.
The city of Guiyang in the southern province of Guizhou proposed that infected people with little or no symptoms go to work in various sectors, including government offices, state-owned enterprises, medical, health and emergency workers, and express delivery and supermarkets.
It’s a radical departure from a few weeks ago, when China’s policy was to isolate anyone infected in a hospital or government-run facility. Tuesday’s announcement follows similar announcements from Wuhu and Chongqing earlier this week. The move appears to be in response to staff shortages that have affected health care and food delivery.
They also reflect the difficulty that authorities face in trying to revive an economy that has been beset by pandemic restrictions and has been slow to revive as workers are falling ill.
China has long been praised for its tough “zero COVID” approach of lockdowns, quarantines and mandatory testing for keeping the number of cases and deaths relatively low. However, the policy put society and the national economy under severe strain and sparked rare anti-government protests demanding a change in strategy.
Now unofficial reports suggest a wider wave of new coronavirus cases.
Wang Guangfa, a doctor in the respiratory department of Peking University First Hospital, has warned that serious cases will peak in Beijing in the next one to two weeks.
“The current wave of infections resembles a pandemic tsunami,” he said in an article published this week. He also said that northern China would have a higher rate of severe cases than the southern part because of the cold weather.
As is typical, cases of severe illness and death will be largely concentrated among the elderly or those who haven’t received booster shots, said Dr. Gagandeep Kang, a virologist at the Christian Medical College in Vellore, India.
90.3% of the Chinese population has been vaccinated and only 60.5% have received boosters.