Beijing saw COVID-related deaths after virus regulations were loosened
Beijing saw COVID-related deaths after virus regulations were loosened

Beijing: On Friday evening, as workers in full protective suits were carrying out coffins one by one, dozens of people bundled up in parkas and hats against the chilly weather outside a funeral home in eastern Beijing.

A family member went up to the casket to view the body when a worker with a clipboard shouted the name of the deceased. The Associated Press was informed by a relative that their loved one had COVID-19.

Beijing is now reporting no deaths linked to the coronavirus, after weeks of China reporting no fatalities despite the country experiencing a surge in cases.

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The increase comes as a result of the government last week dramatically loosening some of the strictest COVID-19 control measures in the world.

   The government announced on Wednesday that it would stop disclosing asymptomatic COVID-19 cases as it is now impossible to track them with mass testing no longer necessary.

It was not clear how fast the virus was spreading because of that pause in reporting. Multiple infections are suspected based on social media posts, business closures, and other anecdotal evidence.
It is also unknown what the number of deaths from the virus is.

At least two people had died after testing positive, according to relatives who told an AP reporter who visited the Dongjiao funeral home.

According to a relative of one of the dead, Dongjiao and another funeral home were chosen by the health authorities to cremate those who pass away after testing positive.

The elderly relative, according to the woman, fell ill in early December, tested positive and passed away in an emergency room on Friday morning.

He said there were not enough nurses in the emergency room to care for all the patients who tested positive for COVID-19. The woman wished to remain anonymous for fear of punishment.

An AP reporter saw about a dozen bodies being carried out of the Dongjiao Funeral Home over the course of an hour.

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One of those men told a group of about six people inside how another victim had struggled to breathe that morning before she died, and the death certificate listed "pneumonia" as a positive for COVID-19. The test was still listed as the cause of death. For fear of retaliation, the interviewees requested anonymity.

According to three employees of businesses on the premises that house the funeral home, there has been a significant increase in visitors recently. According to one estimate, daily cremations had increased from a few dozen to about 150 bodies.

While another said that there are usually more deaths when winter comes, one employee attributed it to the coronavirus. The employees did not want to be identified for fear of retaliation.

Since 4 December, China has not reported a death related to COVID-19.
Compared to 1.1 million deaths in the US, China's official death toll is still a low 5,235. However, public health professionals advise against making direct comparisons between these figures.

Chinese health officials include only those who died as a direct result of COVID-19; They do not include people whose underlying conditions were made worse by the virus.

In accordance with regulations in many other countries, any death where the coronavirus is a cause or contributor must be classified as a COVID-19-related death.

According to experts, this has long been standard procedure in China, but it is sometimes questioned whether the authorities deliberately tried to downplay the numbers.

In an effort to avoid a significant spike in COVID-19 cases in rural areas with scarce medical resources, China's cabinet issued an order on Friday directing rural areas to prepare for the return of migrant workers this holiday season .

The guidelines did not mention the possibility of isolation or quarantine; Instead, he said returnees should wear masks, avoid contact with elderly people, and their movements should be monitored by village committees.

Around China's winter holidays, when millions of people board trains, buses and airplanes for what may be their only trip home for the rest of the year, there is concern that the number of cases will spike.

The Lunar New Year is on January 22, but migrants usually start returning home two weeks or more before. To help spread travel congestion and reduce the chances of a major outbreak, some Chinese universities say they will allow students to finish the semester from home.

About 500 million of China's 1.4 billion inhabitants reside in smaller cities and rural areas, where medical facilities lag far behind those of major cities like Beijing and Shanghai. 

There are 17,000 county-level hospitals in rural areas, many of which don't even have an ICU bed, along with 35,000 township health centres and 599,000 village clinics.

To treat those who have COVID-19 symptoms, China has pushed to increase the number of fever clinics in rural areas. According to state media on Friday, there are currently 19,400 such clinics or consulting rooms operating in towns and communities across the nation.

According to Nie Chunlei, director of primary health at the National Health Commission, by March 2023, 90% of health centres at the township level will have fever clinics.

Nie also urged stockpiling of medications and antigen test kits, many of which have become scarce even in large cities. "This will effectively enhance the capacity of primary-level health care institutions to receive patients with fever," said Nie.

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The relaxation of some travel restrictions has caused both relief and concern regarding the readiness for COVID-19.

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