Home/ Science / News/  China rushes to build hospital beds, US says covid situation in China a global concern

China rushed to install hospital beds across cities and build fever screening clinics amid a surge in covid cases in the country. Now, as the virus sweeps through a country of 1.4 billion people who lack natural immunity having been shielded for so long, there is growing concern about possible deaths, virus mutations and the impact, again, on the economy. United States said Beijing's surprise decision to let coronavirus run free was a concern for the world.

“We know that any time the virus is spreading, that it is in the wild, that it has the potential to mutate and to pose a threat to people everywhere. We’ve seen that over the course of many different permutations of this virus and certainly another reason why we are so focused on helping countries around the world address COVID, another reason why bringing this to a close in China would be beneficial," said US State Department spokesperson Ned Price.

“The toll of the virus is of concern to the rest of the world given the size of China’s GDP, given the size of China’s economy. It’s not only good for China to be in a stronger position vis-à-vis COVID, but it’s good for the rest of the world as well. We – the United States continues to be a leading force for countries around the world in the provision of vaccines and helping countries overcome the acute phase of the virus. We certainly hope that will be the case before long in the PRC as well," he added.

China this month abruptly began dismantling its stringent "zero-COVID" regime of mass lockdowns after protests against curbs that had largely kept the virus at bay for three years.

Beijing reported five COVID-related deaths on Tuesday, following two on Monday which were the first fatalities reported in weeks.

In total, China has reported just 5,242 COVID deaths since the pandemic erupted in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019, an extremely low toll by global standards.

But there are rising doubts that thee statistics are capturing the full impact a disease ripping through cities after China dropped curbs including most mandatory testing on Dec. 7.

Since then, some hospitals have become inundated, pharmacies emptied of medicines and streets have been unusually quiet as residents stay home, either sick or wary of catching the disease.

Some health experts estimate 60% of people in China - equivalent to 10% of the world population - could be infected over the coming months, and that more than 2 million could die.

They have also been playing down the possibility that the now predominant Omicron strain could evolve to become more virulent.

"The probability of a sudden large mutation ... is very low," Zhang Wenhong, a prominent infectious disease specialist, told a forum on Sunday in comments reported by state media.

But there are mounting signs the virus is buffeting China's health system.

Cities are ramping up efforts to expand intensive care units and other treatment facilities for severe COVID cases, the state-run Global Times reported on Monday.

The spreading virus is expected to crimp China's economy, expected to grow 3% this year, its worst performance in nearly half a century. A survey by World Economics showed on Monday China's business confidence fell in December to its lowest since January 2013. China kept benchmark lending interest rates unchanged for the fourth consecutive month on Tuesday.

Metal prices of copper fell today, as surging COVID-19 infections in China hit its industrial activities and raised concerns over near-term demand outlook.

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange was down 1% to $8,241 a tonne, reversing gains from the previous session that was supported by China's pledge to boost its economy.


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Updated: 20 Dec 2022, 12:26 PM IST
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