China is reportedly scrambling to add hospital beds and fever clinics as a recent spike in COVID-19 cases has overwhelmed the country’s health system and puts the global community on edge.
Major cities in China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, and Wenzhou, have added hundreds of fever clinics – some in converted sports facilities – in the past week.
Numbers of fever clinics have been expanded in both urban and rural areas and people have been asked to stay home unless seriously ill to preserve resources. Hospitals are also running short on staff, and reports say workers have been asked to return to their posts as long as they aren’t feverish.
China’s rush to bolster its healthcare comes as Beijing reported five COVID-related deaths on Tuesday, following two on Monday – fueling concern that the toll could rise sharply after the lifting of most “zero-COVID” restrictions.
Despite the uptick in cases, China began dropping its stringent “zero-COVID” policies after facing an unprecedented wave of rare anti-government protests.
Public health officials, meanwhile, have raised the alarm about possible virus mutations in a country that lacks natural immunity and has been shielded for so long.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price also said on Monday that the potential for the virus to mutate and spread within China is “a thread for people everywhere.”
With people now testing and recuperating at home, China has said it is no longer possible to keep an accurate count of new case numbers, making it substantially more difficult to gauge the state of the current wave of infection and its direction. Some scientific models have estimated numbers will rise with an eventual death toll in the tens or hundreds of thousands.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.