China reported 218,019 new weekly Covid-19 cases as of January 1st, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in its weekly report, as the country is battling a surge in the cases of the virus.
China reported five new deaths related to Covid-19 for Tuesday, bringing the official death toll to 5,258, very low by global standards.
In December last year, the WHO said it has received no data from China on new Covid-19 hospitalisations since Beijing lifted its zero-Covid policy, prompting some health experts to question whether it might be hiding information on the extent of its outbreak.
However, the WHO has said gaps in data might be due to Chinese authorities simply struggling to tally cases.
It comes as patients are being left in corridors with oxygen and wheelchairs as Covid surges in China’s capital.
The Chuiyangliu hospital in Beijing was packed with newly arrived patients on Thursday – with beds running out by midmorning as ambulances continued to turn up with those in need.
Hard-pressed nurses and doctors rushed to take information and triage the most urgent cases.
The surge in severely ill people needing hospital care follows China abandonment of its most severe pandemic restrictions last month after nearly three years of lockdowns, travels bans and school closures which weighed heavily on the economy and prompted street protests not seen since the late 1980s.
It also comes as the European Union (EU) on Wednesday “strongly encouraged” its member states to impose pre-departure Covid-19 testing of passengers from China.
Over the past week, EU nations have reacted with a variety of restrictions toward travellers from China, disregarding an earlier commitment to act in unity.
Italy – where the pandemic first exacted a heavy toll in Europe in early 2020 – was the first EU member to require coronavirus tests for airline passengers coming from China, but France and Spain quickly followed with their own measures.
That followed the imposition by the US of a requirement that all passengers from China show a negative test result obtained in the previous 48 hours before departure.
[ EU backs Covid-19 tests for inbound passengers from China ]
China has warned of “countermeasures” if such policies are imposed across the bloc.
The country has sought to get more of its elderly population vaccinated, but those efforts have been hampered by past scandals involving fake medications and previous warnings about adverse reactions to the vaccines among older people.
China’s domestically developed vaccines are also considered less effective than the jabs used elsewhere. – Agencies