COVID cases surge in China following relaxed restrictions

People line up outside a fever clinic in Beijing, China
(Image credit: Kevin Frayer / Stringer/ Getty Images)

Hospitals in China have been struggling to contain a rising COVID-19 outbreak as authorities scale back on over two years of strict COVID policies, The Washington Post reports.

Last week following widespread protests against the government's strict zero COVID policies, authorities decided to loosen some of the severe restrictions under the policy after two years. Beijing declared that people who tested positive for the virus could quarantine at home instead of being forced into government facilities if they are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms. Requirements for testing, digital health passes, and tracking also loosened dramatically.

Since that announcement, hospitals have reported a surge in COVID patients, while hundreds of staff members have become infected with the virus. At a briefing, Beijing municipal officials said 22,000 patients visited fever clinics on Sunday, which is 16 times the daily average of the prior week, per the Post. Long lines have been forming outside of hospitals as medical professionals struggle to keep up with the demand for care. Some facilities are struggling to find enough staff, leading some centers to suspend non-COVID treatments, Bloomberg reports.

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Officials are urging people not to use the capital's emergency medical hotline unless they have severe symptoms, warning that a spike in requests for help could prevent those who are critically ill from getting through, per Bloomberg. The capital has erected triple the number of fever clinics and pledged to open more. Instead, authorities suggested residents seek assistance from community clinics instead of going to the hospital.

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