The World Health Organization is monitoring the health situation in China. The number of children suffering from an infection whose symptoms resemble pneumonia has increased rapidly. Emergency rooms in hospitals are overcrowded, people wait in queues to see doctors for many hours. Chinese services claim that there is no new unknown virus that could lead to a pandemic.
There have been outbreaks of pneumonia among children in China for several weeks. The situation is particularly difficult in the north. Thousands of patients are waiting to be admitted to one of the children’s hospitals in Beijing. – To increase efficiency, we hired a group of residents who help us enter data into the system. Every night, doctors from different departments work overtime. Additionally, each specialist is able to conduct 30 remote consultations, says Guo Lingyun from the Children’s Hospital in Beijing.
The increase in cases has alarmed the WHO. Last week, the World Health Organization called on China to provide detailed explanations. – The World Health Organization has been monitoring the situation since mid-October. Patients have symptoms common to several respiratory diseases. Chinese authorities say known pathogens are to blame, reports Christian Lindmeier of the WHO.
When the virus emerged in Wuhan in 2019 and led to a global health crisis, both Chinese authorities and the WHO were accused of a lack of transparency. Now China is calming down. A spokesman for China’s National Health Commission says the recent increase in lung disease cases is mainly caused by the influenza virus. – We should make efforts to increase the availability of clinics. We need to extend working hours and guarantee the supply of medicines, admits Mi Feng.
Is the “zero Covid” policy to blame?
Authorities advise citizens to wear masks in crowded places such as schools and nursing homes. They also encourage vaccinations among children and the elderly. – I’m a little worried, so I went with my baby for a check-up, says Yi Jialu, a resident of Shanghai. – We have to be careful, wash our children’s hands more often and ventilate the rooms – adds Feng Zixun.
Experts say that the reason for the increase in cases may be the zero tolerance policy towards COVID-19, which was in force in China until December last year. Lockdowns and strict restrictions limited the spread of the coronavirus and other diseases, but they may also have made people less immune and more susceptible to infection.
– We have to take many factors into account. First of all: it’s winter and it’s cold. An increase in respiratory infections is normal. We are dealing with a situation that we have observed in other countries, when after the lifting of Covid restrictions, children meet each other and there may be an increase in infections – explains Professor John Nicholls from the University of Hong Kong.
The World Health Organization has not issued any recommendations regarding travel to China, but encourages all sick people to change their plans. For now, mainly children are affected, but the Chinese authorities claim that the disease will most likely affect a larger part of the population in winter.
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Main photo source: Reuters