Drug production is ramping up as authorities fear new outbreaks of the novel coronavirus pandemic in the province
They increase production of antipyretics and other drugs used to treat COVID-19, Chinese pharmaceutical companies, as President Xi Jinping yesterday expressed strong concern over the spread of the virus in the province.
As travel increases, there are fears of an increase in deaths. According to the British company Airfinity, in China it is estimated that up to 36,000 people will die each day due to the corona virus.
On Saturday, Chinese authorities announced that from December 8, 2022 to January 12, 2023, nearly 60,000 people died in hospitals due to COVID-19. The official death toll of the pandemic roughly increased tenfold.
However, even this number does not include those who succumbed to the disease at home, and some doctors say that are discouraged to indicate on death certificates that the cause was COVID.
Experts say Beijing’s official figures do not reflect the true scale of the health crisis.
“Based on reports of overwhelmed hospitals and long queues at funeral homes, we could estimate that the number of deaths due to COVID-19 is high, may even exceed 600,000, and is not just 60,000,” said Ben Cowling, an epidemiologist at the University of Hong Kong.
The verification of the calculation of this in an independent way is impossible.
The abrupt end to the policy of lockdowns, mass testing and travel restrictions and the chaos that followed also caused drug shortages as many Chinese rushed to stock up on preparations to deal with SARS-CoV-2 infection.
To meet the rapidly increasing demand, Chinese pharmaceutical companies are ramping up their production, intending to triple the quantities of anti-fever and anti-cough products they have on the market, according to a report in the China Daily today.
The Chinese government relies on domestically produced vaccines, shunning foreign-made formulations even though some studies suggest they are more effective. Some foreign drugs for COVID-19 are difficult to impossible to find in the country.
For example, Paxlovid (Pfizer) is theoretically available in China, but it is very difficult to obtain through official channels, according to reports and testimonies. Molnupiravir (Merck) is approved but not widely available.
China’s official pharmaceuticals agency pledged earlier this week to lower the prices of drugs linked to the treatment of COVID-19 and to crack down on counterfeit drugs.
Particularly vulnerable to the virus are the elderly, many of whom have not been fully vaccinated and are exposed as millions of urban workers travel to their special homelands to spend the Lunar New Year holiday (officially beginning on January 21) with their loved ones. Before the novel coronavirus was detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, it was the largest annual movement of people anywhere on the planet.
President Xi said in his New Year’s message on Wednesday that he was “more worried” about what would happen “to the rural areas and farmers”, especially as medical centers there could be overwhelmed: “prevention is difficult and work will be hard”, but “the light is before us” and “persistence” will bring “victory”, he said. He called the care of the elderly a priority.
Urban centers such as Hangzhou, Kunming, Zhengzhou, Changsha (all of which have populations over 10 million) will allow the sale of fireworks, according to business magazine Yicai.
Airfinity reported on Wednesday that cases could reach 62 million between January 13 and 27 and that deaths due to COVID-19 could peak at 36,000 a day on January 26. These numbers are impressively increased compared to her previous predictions.
According to Matt Linley, an Aifinity executive who heads the analytics department, China’s health system will face “great pressure in the next fortnight” and many patients who could be saved “will die because of the heavy workload in hospitals and the lack of care”.
In Hong Kong, Asia’s major financial center that is also fully reopening its economy, authorities announced today that from January 30 those with symptoms of COVID-19 will no longer be required to quarantine. It was one of the last restrictive measures that remained in place.
Although the death toll of the pandemic is feared to be particularly heavy in China, media in the country and internationally express their hope that it will revive the Chinese and international economy. The country recorded in 2022 the slowest growth rate in the last 40 years (3% of GDP).
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