Chinese scientists have developed a simple, rapid-detection mechanism that can screen patients for gene variants linked to high blood pressure.This scientific breakthrough can pave the way for more personalised treatment in the future. Millions of patients worldwide still fail to achieve effective blood pressure control, although there are drugs that can control hypertension, a key risk factor for heart diseases.The researchers from the Institute of Chemistry under the Chinese Academy of Sciences modified a commonly-used fluorescent detection technique to detect 10 gene variants called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with hypertension.The test used a simple design through which two SNPs can be detected with one reaction, according to the study published recently in the journal Science Translational Medicine.The mechanism was applied retrospectively to 150 blood samples from hospitalised patients with hypertension in China, and it successfully detected several disease-linked SNPs.The researchers then applied the technique in a week-long clinical trial involving 100 patients with hypertension and used the test results to personalise medication choices for 50 percent of the participants based on drug class-associated risks.Compared with those who received standard hypertension therapy, the precision medicine group achieved better blood pressure control in less time, decreasing from 5.82 days to 4.06 days, according to the study.This system could be applied to maximise the efficacy of hypertension medication and reduce rates of uncontrolled hypertension, the researchers said.
China's national legislature decided on the new lineup of the Chinese State Council, or the cabinet, at the ongoing annual legislative session Sunday morning.Upon nomination by Premier Li Qiang, vice premiers, state councillors, ministers, governor of the central bank, auditor-general, and secretary-general of the State Council were endorsed by lawmakers at the fifth plenary meeting of the first session of the 14th National People's Congress, according to China's News Agency (Xinhua).Chinese President Xi Jinping signed a presidential order to appoint these officials.During the session, the NPC deputies approved, through a vote, the chairpersons, vice chairpersons and members of eight special committees of the 14th NPC.
An object that was seen streaking across the sky in January has been confirmed as a comet by International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Centre (MPC).The comet was first spotted on Jan 9 by astronomers at the Purple Mountain Observatory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The discovery was confirmed by the MPC on Wednesday and was named Tsuchinshan-ATLAS.According to the astronomical observatory, the comet is making its way toward the sun and its brightness will increase rapidly, and it is expected to be visible to the naked eye in September 2024.
Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) announced Wednesday that Chinese scientists have developed a new approach to estimate carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants, which offers further insight into carbon reduction.A researcher with the Aerospace Information Research Institute (AIR) of CAS and leader of the aforementioned study published by the Journal of Cleaner Production Shi Yusheng said, according to China's News Agency (Xinhua), that this method of carbon dioxide emission inversion is based on an improved Gaussian plume model and data from the orbiting carbon observatory satellites.The existing emission inventory does not accurately reflect current CO2 emissions due to the lag in the statistical data and the accuracy limit for emissions factor.The study team leader pointed out that the progress of remote-sensing technology sheds light on the carbon-emission monitoring sector, indicating that this method is based on measured data that is less prone to being impacted by human factors and statistical data errors. It also has a high time resolution, providing a unified standard for estimation, said Shi.The validation results of the new method showed a high level of agreement with the existing emission inventory.The method helps monitor and estimate important point sources of carbon emissions, which is a prerequisite for the power industry to carry out carbon reduction efforts, Shi concluded.
Two people died and six others injured, following a landslide in a coal mine in north China's Inner Mongolia region.A massive landslide has halted search and rescue efforts at a collapsed coal mine which left 53 people missing, local authorities said Thursday.The landslide occurred at the rescue site on Wednesday, according to the rescue headquarters. More than 900 people had rushed to the site for rescue operations after an open-pit mine collapsed in Alxa Left Banner on Wednesday, resulting in two deaths, six injuries, and 53 people missing, China's news agency (Xinhua) reported.
Archeologists from the Institute of Archeology in the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences have excavated the foundations of two palace buildings that could be dated back to more than 2,000 years ago in northwest China's Shaanxi Province.Some semi-circular eaves tiles were unearthed, which provided evidence for the discussion of the use of ancient eaves tiles.Archeologists said that the buildings were part of Yueyang, a capital city of the Qin state in the Warring States Period (475 BC-221 BC). The Qin state later unified China for the first time to start the Qin Dynasty.According to researcher Liu Rui, the two buildings were rectangular and facing south. He added that the excavation for the first time gave an overall picture of the layout of important palace buildings inside the capital city's central areas between the mid-Warring States Period and the early Western Han Dynasty (202 BC-25 AD).Archeologists discovered the first ancient city complex in the 1980s, and the second and the third ones after 2012. The two buildings belonged to the No.3 complex.
China confirmed its willingness to give a new impetus to its relations with Germany and Europe and to expand cooperation in various fields.The director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee Wang Yi, made the remarks when meeting with German Foreign Affairs Minister Annalena Baerbock during the ongoing Munich Security Conference (MSC).Wang, added that the Munich Security Conference is an important international platform, and he expects the conference to speak out for peace, shape consensus on cooperation, jointly uphold multilateralism, uphold the UN Charter and safeguard the hard-won post-World War II peaceful situation.Although China and Germany have different social systems and cultural backgrounds, safeguarding world peace and promoting global development serves the common interests of the two countries and is also the two's common responsibility, he said.For its part, German Foreign Affairs Minister Annalena Baerbock said that Germany attaches great importance to its relations with China, adheres to the one-China policy and hopes that Germany and China can restart exchanges and cooperation in various fields as soon as possible and further strengthen economic and trade exchanges.
China's national observatory renewed a blue alert on Wednesday morning, forecasting snowstorms in parts of the northwestern and central regions of the country.The Chinese news agency (Xinhua) quoted the National Meteorological Center as saying that heavy snow is expected from Wednesday until Thursday at noon in parts of several provincial-level regions, including Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Gansu, Shaanxi, Shanxi, and Henan, adding that some places may see more than 10 cm of snow cover.Local authorities in the affected regions have been advised to make preparations for snowstorms and frost damage. Transportation, power and communications departments should inspect roads, railways and lines and carry out road cleaning and de-icing.China has a four-tier, color-coded weather warning system, with red representing the most severe warning, followed by orange, yellow and blue.
A 6.1-magnitude earthquake jolted Shaya County of Aksu Prefecture in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on Monday.The epicentre was monitored at 40.01 degrees north latitude and 82.29 degrees east longitude, with a depth of 50 km, according to the China Earthquake Networks Center (CENC).There were no reports of human losses or material damage as a result of the earthquake so far.China usually suffers from earthquakes and strong tremors, especially in the mountainous areas in the west and southwest of the country.
China has resumed the issuance of ordinary visas for Japanese citizens travelling to the country, the Chinese embassy in Japan said on Sunday, in a move that could ease a diplomatic row.Effective on Sunday, the embassy and Chinese consulates in Japan will resume the examination and issuance of ordinary visas for Japanese citizens to China, the embassy said in a statement.China this month stopped issuing visas for Japanese nationals after Japan toughened Covid-19 border control rules for travellers coming directly from China. Japan lodged a protest to China over the suspension of visas for Japanese citizens, asking Beijing to reverse the action.
Residents of China's Wuhan said Monday they were hopeful for the future and no longer afraid of Covid-19, three years after the city was locked down over what was then a mysterious virus.Since Beijing ordered Wuhan sealed off in a bid to suffocate the outbreak in January 2020, Covid has devastated the planet, killing millions and plunging the global economy into turmoil.But life is now back to normal for many across the globe and after almost three years of gruelling lockdowns and mandatory mass testing, Beijing last month lifted its hardline zero-Covid policy.As China celebrated Lunar New Year this week, Wuhan was unrecognisable compared to the apocalyptic scenes that gripped the city of 11 million in early 2020.Locals braved icy temperatures to pack busy markets and families -- some not wearing masks -- bought toys and threw stones along the Yangtze River.Many told AFP they were elated that life was returning to normal."The new year will of course be better," Yan Dongju, a cleaner in her sixties, told AFP."We are not afraid of the virus anymore.""Now that we have opened up, everyone is quite happy," said delivery driver Liang Feicheng, wearing glasses and a black facemask to keep warm."A lot of our worries and depression have all slowly been resolved," he added."People are going about their lives, coming together with family and friends, going out to play and travel and being happy."- 'House of hope'-The January 2020 decision to lock down the city, announced in the middle of the night, took Wuhan's residents by surprise as the world watched on with uncertainty.For 76 days, Wuhan was cut off from the world, with residents holed up in their homes for fear of being infected as hospitals overflowed with patients.But the horrifying scenes which marked the world's first Covid lockdown are now a thing of the past.Outside a shop where AFP captured the scene of a man who lay dying in the street in January 2020 -- in an image that would become a symbol of the world's fight against Covid -- a sign for a new school on the second floor reads "House of Hope".But in a cogent reminder of the fraught geopolitics that would emerge as the virus spread across the globe, Wuhan's Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market -- once suspected of being the epicentre of the outbreak -- remains closed.The area around the once-bustling wet market was desolate when AFP visited Monday, though a police car kept watch.- Over a billion infected –China, relatively unscathed for years after its initial outbreaks thanks to draconian zero-Covid measures, has faced its biggest-ever case surge in recent weeks.About 80 percent of the population is believed to have contracted Covid since health restrictions were lifted in December, according to leading epidemiologist Wu Zunyou.On Saturday, China reported at least 13,000 Covid-related deaths in just under a week.This figure, which only includes deaths reported in hospitals, adds to the approximately 60,000 deaths since December that were previously reported by authorities.But it is likely a huge underestimate for a population of 1.4 billion, and Beijing's official case tally is no longer believed to reflect reality.
Archaeologists have discovered traces of human activity dating back over 40,000 years in Ziyang City, southwest China's Sichuan Province.So far, more than 1,000 pieces of stoneware items and animal fossils have been unearthed at the Mengxi River site, Ziyang. The stone products include cores, blades and scrapers, while the fossils include the remains of rhinos and elephants, according to the Sichuan Provincial Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute.The findings resulted from an archaeological project, jointly launched by several organizations, including the institute and the local cultural relic departments of Ziyang, in January 2022, China's Xinhua News Agency reported.Notably, some bone artefacts, suspected wood artifacts and a large number of plant remains have also been excavated - which is extremely rare to see at Paleolithic ruins.The carbon-14 dating method shows that the Mengxi River site is at least 43,000 years old.It is one of the most systematic and all-element Paleolithic sites in China, showing the relationship between humans and the environment, and providing a vivid view of human activities during the Late Pleistocene, said Wang Youping, a professor of the School of Archaeology and Museology, Peking University.
China has told travel agencies in Japan that it has stopped issuing new visas for travel, three companies confirmed to Reuters on Tuesday, an apparent response to stricter measures for Chinese arrivals after their country freed up travel.Chinese authorities gave notice that they had stopped issuing all tourist and business visas to Japanese nationals, said an official of a Tokyo-based agency that focuses on Chinese travel, speaking on condition of anonymity.A spokesperson of China's embassy in Tokyo said it had no new information on visa policy, however, adding that any such updates would be posted on the embassy website.The move came soon after Japan toughened Covid-19 rules for travellers coming directly from China, prescribing a negative result of a PCR test taken less than 72 hours before departure, as well as a negative test on arrival in Japan.Earlier on Tuesday, China's embassy in Seoul said it had stopped issuing short-term visas for visitors from South Korea.
China is experiencing a huge Covid-19 surge after years of hardline containment restrictions were dismantled last month.A growing number of countries are worried about a lack of data and transparency surrounding China's outbreak.Here is why it is sparking concern:- Unreliable data –Beijing has admitted the scale of the outbreak has become "impossible" to track following the end of mandatory mass testing last month.The National Health Commission has stopped publishing daily nationwide infection and death statistics.That responsibility has been transferred to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which will only publish figures once a month after China downgrades its management protocols for the disease on January 8.China has only reported 15 Covid deaths since it began unwinding restrictions on December 7, shortly after which it narrowed the criteria by which deaths from the coronavirus are recorded.This has stoked concerns that the wave of infections is not being accurately reflected in official statistics.Authorities admitted last week that the scale of data collected is "much smaller" than when mandatory mass PCR testing was in place.CDC official Yin Wenwu said authorities are now compiling data from hospitals and local government surveys as well as emergency call volumes and fever medicine sales, which will "make up for deficiencies in our reporting".Chinese hospitals and crematoriums are struggling with an influx of patients and bodies, with rural areas hit particularly hard.Several countries including the United States, Australia and Canada last week said they were imposing testing restrictions on arrivals from China because of a lack of transparency on infection data.- Piecemeal estimates –Last month, a few local and regional authorities began sharing estimated daily infection totals as the scale of the outbreak remained unclear.Disease control authorities in the wealthy coastal province of Zhejiang said Tuesday that the number of new cases jumped one million in the past few days, and "the epidemic is expected to enter a peak plateau in January".The Zhejiang cities of Quzhou and Zhoushan said at least 30 percent of the population had contracted the virus.The eastern coastal city of Qingdao also estimated around 500,000 new daily cases and the southern manufacturing centre of Dongguan forecast up to 300,000.Officials in the island province of Hainan estimated Friday that the infection rate there had surpassed 50 percent.But top health official Wu Zunyou said Thursday that the peak had passed in the cities of Beijing, Chengdu and Tianjin, with Guangzhou city officials saying the same on Sunday.A senior doctor at a Shanghai hospital estimated Tuesday that up to 70 percent of the city's 25 million population may have been infected in the current wave.Leaked notes from a meeting of health officials last month revealed they believed 250 million people had been infected across China in the first 20 days of December.Independent infection models paint a grim picture. University of Hong Kong researchers have estimated nearly one million Chinese may die this winter as a result of opening up.And health risk analysis firm Airfinity forecast 11,000 deaths and 1.8 million infections per day, with a total of 1.7 million fatalities by the end of April.- New variants? –Many countries have cited concerns over potential new variants as a reason to screen Chinese arrivals for Covid.But there is as yet no evidence of new strains emerging from the current wave.Top CDC official Xu Wenbo said last month that China was developing a national genetic database of Covid samples derived from hospital surveillance that would help track mutations.Chinese health experts have said in recent days that the Omicron subvariants BA.5.2 and BF.7 are most prevalent in Beijing, in response to public fears that the Delta variant may still be circulating.They said Omicron also remained the most dominant strain in Shanghai.In many Western nations, these strains have been overtaken by the more transmissible subvariants XBB and BQ, which are not yet dominant in China.Beijing has submitted 384 Omicron samples in the past month to the global online database GISAID, according to its website.But the country's total number of submissions to the database, at 1,308, is dwarfed by those of other nations, including the United States, Britain, Cambodia and Senegal.Recent samples from China "all closely resemble known globally circulating variants seen... between July and December", GISAID said Friday.University of Hong Kong virologist Jin Dong-yan said on an independent podcast last month that people need not fear the risk of a deadlier new variant in China."Many places all over the world have experienced (large-scale infection) but a more deadly or pathogenic variant did not emerge afterwards," said Jin."I'm not saying that the emergence of a (more deadly) strain is completely impossible, but the possibility is very small."
Asian countries are bracing for an influx of Chinese tourists as Covid restrictions are dismantled, and while some are wary, operators in others are preparing packages such as hotpot buffets to cash in on the expected spike in travel.Chinese tourists will no longer need to quarantine on return home starting Jan. 8, the government announced this week, a move that spurred a surge in bookings from what was the world's largest outbound travel market in 2019.The once $255 billion a year in global spending by Chinese tourists ground to a virtual halt during the pandemic, leaving a gaping hole in the Asian market, where countries from Thailand to Japan had depended on China as the largest source of foreign visitors.International flights to and from China are at just 8% of pre-pandemic levels, VariFlight data shows, but carriers are looking to ramp up capacity as authorities ease Covid-driven limits on the number of flights."There is little doubt mainland Chinese are the spark plug for Thailand's tourism recovery," said Bill Barnett, managing director of hospitality consultancy C9 Hotelworks. "It's not a question of if it will happen, it's now just a matter of how many and how fast."Malaysia Airlines and Vietnamese budget carrier VietJet Aviation said they hope to restore China flights to pre-pandemic levels by June 2023, while others such as Singapore Airlines and Australia's Qantas Airways declined to provide detailed targets as the situation evolves.Chinese airlines are likely to make significant increases to capacity from the end of March, coinciding with the start of the summer scheduling season, Morningstar analyst Cheng Weng told clients in a note.REBOUND "WITH A VENGEANCE"The prospect of cash-rich Chinese flocking to shopping streets across the world boosted luxury stocks this week, as China accounts for 21% of the world's 350 billion euro ($371.91 billion) luxury goods market.As the Lunar New Year holiday - typically a peak travel period for Chinese tourists - starts on Jan. 21, some businesses are already gearing up.Sofitel Sentosa in Singapore is creating Lunar New Year packages aimed at Chinese visitors, including a hotpot buffet and romantic packages for couples, said Cavaliere Giovanni Viterale, general manager of that hotel and the upcoming Raffles Sentosa, as the company bets that a travel rebound will come "with a vengeance".In Japan, tour bus firm Hato Bus says next month it will try out Chinese-language tours it had halted during the pandemic, with the aim of a full resumption by the spring, a spokesperson said.Japan, however, is being cautious about Chinese tourism due to the rapid spread of the virus in China. It is requiring a negative Covid-19 test on arrival from Chinese visitors, and those who test positive must quarantine for seven days under new border measures taking effect on Dec. 30.The United States said it would impose mandatory Covid tests on travellers from China, joining India, Italy and Taiwan in taking new measures, while the Philippines is considering a testing requirement.Australia, Germany, Thailand and others, however, said they would not impose additional rules on Chinese travel for now, with France taking to social media platform Sina Weibo to emphasise it welcomed Chinese friends "with open arms".In Vietnam, where tourist visas for Chinese are not yet being issued, Saigon Halong Hotel in Halong Bay expects it will receive Chinese arrivals from the second quarter of next year.Any hopes of a massive rebound in Chinese travel to Australia during the Lunar New Year holiday are probably misplaced, James Shen, general manager of Melbourne-based tour agency Odyssey Travel said, citing sky-high airfares."There are still very few flights and they would be booking very last minute," he said. "I suspect any meaningful rebound will have to wait until the travel boom in June or July next year." ($1 = 0.9411 euros)
After China scrapped three years of zero-Covid curbs in 30 days, setting off a massive wave of infections, Beijing's policymakers face an immense challenge to treat the sick and minimise deaths while winning back public trust dented by previous policies.Scenes of overwhelmed hospitals, people on intravenous drips by the roadside and lines of hearses outside crematoria have fuelled public concern. An extraordinarily small number of reported fatalities - 10 deaths since the old policy regime was overturned on Dec. 7 - and a decision by authorities to stop publishing data on cases have also stoked distrust.With estimates of millions of daily cases and at least 1 million Covid deaths next year, global experts say the world's most populous nation needs to bolster its medical infrastructure quickly. Chinese officials have vowed to step up protection for key demographic groups - including millions of elderly people - boost vaccination rates and expand healthcare resources.Experts say China has been caught ill-prepared by the abrupt U-turn in policies long championed by President Xi Jinping and implemented by trusted ally Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, be it the Chinese capital or the countryside.In December, tenders put out by hospitals for key medical equipment such as ventilators and patient monitors were two to three times higher than in previous months, according to a Reuters review，suggesting hospitals across the country were scrambling to plug shortages.China's Covid policy, especially at the grassroots level, is in chaos due to crunches in medical supplies and the sheer number of sick elderly people, said Alfred Wu, associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore."This is very much an unprecedented emergency now, because of the healthcare crunch that has happened everywhere, at different levels, even in Beijing," Wu said."More fundamental, and more subtle and more important is the social contract and social trust in China. It is supposed to be very high and supposed to help the government deal with many challenges but now the issue is we don't know how much faith people have in the government."The State Council Information Office, which handles media queries for the government, did not respond to Reuters requests for comment.Covid CZAROver the past three years, Vice Premier Sun, 72, has been the face of China's Covid fight, a mother-like figure who has executed Xi's zero-Covid policy with a firm hand.On Jan. 22, 2020, while visiting the central city of Wuhan where the new coronavirus was first found, Sun told local cadres to implement the "strictest" counter-epidemic measures. A day later, the city of over 13 million was thrown into a lockdown - the first of many across China that sparked anger and protests.In April this year, Sun rushed to Shanghai as the city went under lockdown, according to state media reports. At the end of a one-month stay, Sun said it was not the time for the city of 25 million to relax. The lockdown continued for another month.Trusted by Xi, the former factory worker has taken blows for his Covid policies.In 2020, while inspecting a high-rise condominium in Wuhan, her group was heckled by residents under lockdown. "It's fake! It's fake!" they yelled from their windows, accusing officials of staging grocery deliveries to coincide with her visit.During the Shanghai lockdown, while also on an inspection tour, Sun was bombarded by pleas from residents shouting from their windows: "No more rice! No more cooking oil! Please take us with you! Don't leave us!"Sun will step down in March during a Cabinet reshuffle that also involves many other top government officials. She is also past the typical retirement age of 68."From a political perspective, she has faithfully obeyed the orders of President Xi," said Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), an independent U.S. think tank.According to minutes of a COVID teleconference among top policymakers seen by Reuters and confirmed by a source with knowledge of the meeting on Dec. 25, Li Qiang, the former Communist Party chief of Shanghai who oversaw the city's two-month lockdown, spoke as the new head of a small but powerful policy-deciding group on COVID.Li is a close ally of Xi's and was recently elected to the No.2 position on the seven-man Standing Committee, the pinnacle of power within the Communist Party.How the current infections are tackled remain a key near-term challenge to COVID czars."If they cannot do a good job in handling the surge of cases and this leads to mass die-off, that fear and panic would be a challenge to social and political stability," CFR's Huang said.
Half a million people in a single Chinese city are being infected with Covid-19 every day, a senior health official has said, in a rare and quickly censored acknowledgement that the country's wave of infections is not being reflected in official statistics.China this month has rapidly dismantled key pillars of its zero-Covid strategy, doing away with snap lockdowns, lengthy quarantines and travel curbs in a jarring reversal of its hallmark containment strategy.Cities across the country have struggled to cope as surging infections have emptied pharmacy shelves, filled hospital wards and appeared to cause backlogs at crematoriums and funeral homes.But the end of strict testing mandates has made caseloads virtually impossible to track, while authorities have narrowed the medical definition of a Covid death in a move experts have said will suppress the number of fatalities attributable to the virus.A news outlet operated by the ruling Communist Party in Qingdao on Friday reported the municipal health chief as saying that the eastern city was seeing "between 490,000 and 530,000" new Covid cases a day.The coastal city of around 10 million people was "in a period of rapid transmission ahead of an approaching peak", Bo Tao reportedly said, adding that the infection rate would accelerate by another 10 percent over the weekend.The report was shared by several other news outlets but appeared to have been edited by Saturday morning to remove the case figures.China's National Health Commission said Saturday that 4,103 new domestic infections were recorded nationwide the previous day, with no new deaths.In Shandong, the province where Qingdao is located, authorities officially logged just 31 new domestic cases.China's government keeps a tight leash on the country's media, with legions of online censors on hand to scrub out content deemed politically sensitive.Most government-run publications have downplayed the severity of the country's exit wave, instead depicting the policy reversal as logical and controlled.But some outlets have hinted at shortages of medicine and hospitals under strain, though estimates of actual case numbers remain rare.The government of eastern Jiangxi province said in a Friday social media post that 80 percent of its population -- equivalent to around 36 million people -- would be infected by March.More than 18,000 Covid patients had been admitted to major medical institutions in the province in the two weeks up to Thursday, including nearly 500 severe cases but no deaths, the statement said.
Laurie CHEN "Deceased, deceased," a staffer in full protective gear shouted as she handed a nurse a death certificate, their hospital in central China overflowing with Covid patients.China is battling a wave of infections that has hit the elderly hard, but has officially logged only a handful of deaths from the coronavirus after the government redefined the criteria by which Covid deaths are counted.At No. 5 People's Hospital in Chongqing, the main entrance lobby had been converted into a makeshift Covid ward when AFP visited on Friday.In the vast atrium, about a dozen beds occupied by mainly elderly patients on IV drips were cordoned off with red and white tape.In a nearby room, about 40 mostly elderly and middle-aged patients sat on sofas and lay on beds receiving IV drips, some coughing. A nurse said they all had Covid.In an intensive care unit next door, three people lay on beds attached to respirators and heart monitoring equipment.An elderly man was wheeled in on a stretcher, coughing and struggling to breathe. At the emergency department, around 50 people queued for triage, including Covid patients, with one person at the front of the queue telling AFP they had waited for more than an hour.The emergency room at another medium-sized hospital in downtown Chongqing was also overrun, with around 30 elderly people attached to IV drips, squeezed among beds and chairs. Several were breathing through respirators and a few had pulse oximeters attached to their fingers.A cleaner and a nurse at the first hospital told AFP there were several deaths per day since the government's sudden decision at the beginning of the month to lift health restrictions and end mass testing.It was not clear if all of the deaths were related to the virus.'Died too quickly' On Thursday evening, AFP visited a crematorium in the city's south and witnessed 40 bodies being unloaded in two hours.The relatives of several of the deceased said the deaths were due to Covid.One woman said her elderly relative, who was suffering from cold symptoms, had tested negative but died after they could not get an ambulance in time.A woman in her 20s told AFP she suspected her father had died of Covid, though he had not been tested."He died too quickly, while on the way to hospital," she sobbed. "He had lung issues to begin with... He was only 69."Under China's new definition of Covid deaths, only those who die of respiratory failure -- and not pre-existing conditions exacerbated by the virus -- are counted.That means many of the dead in Chongqing -- and across the country -- are no longer even being registered as coronavirus victims.At the first hospital's ICU on Friday, the cleaner told AFP it was mostly elderly people who were dying. Gesturing to a space where a bed had been a little while before, he said: "Look, that old man in there died just now."
Jing Xuan TENG China's top health body said Wednesday the true scale of coronavirus infections in the country is now "impossible" to track, with officials warning cases are rising rapidly in Beijing after the government abruptly abandoned its zero-Covid policy last week.After nearly three years of attempting to stamp out the virus, the sudden end of mass testing and quarantines has led to a corresponding drop in officially reported infections, which hit an all-time high only last month.With testing no longer required for much of the country, China's National Health Commission on Wednesday admitted its numbers no longer reflected reality."Many asymptomatic people are no longer participating in nucleic acid testing, so it is impossible to accurately grasp the actual number of asymptomatic infected people," the NHC said in a statement.The statement comes after Vice Premier Sun Chunlan said the capital's new infections were "rapidly growing", according to state media.Chinese leaders are determined to press ahead with opening up, with Beijing's tourism authority saying Tuesday that it would resume tour groups in and out of the capital.But the country is facing a surge in cases that experts fear it is ill-equipped to manage, with millions of vulnerable elderly still not fully vaccinated and underfunded hospitals lacking the resources to deal with an expected influx of infected patients.A line of about 50 people stretched out the door of the Puren fever clinic in Beijing on Wednesday, with multiple residents telling AFP they were infected with Covid."Basically, if we are lining up here, we are all infected. We would not come here if we weren't," one person waiting in line told AFP."I'm here with a senior member of my family, he's had a fever for nearly 10 days in a row now, so we are coming to do a checkup on him."— Medicine shortage –Restaurants, shops and parks are now allowed to reopen, but residents are finding the path to living with the virus less than straightforward.Many with symptoms have opted to self-medicate at home, while others are staying in to protect themselves from getting infected.And businesses are struggling as Covid-19 rips through the population and affects their staffing.As a result, Beijing's streets are largely empty.Residents have complained of sold-out cold medicines and long lines at pharmacies, while Chinese search giant Baidu said that searches for fever-reducing Ibuprofen had risen 430 percent over the past week.Soaring demand for rapid antigen tests and medications has created a black market with astronomical prices, while buyers resort to sourcing the goods from "dealers" whose contacts are being passed around WeChat groups.Authorities are cracking down, with market regulators hitting one business in Beijing with a 300,000 yuan ($43,000) fine for selling overpriced test kits, the local Beijing News reported Tuesday.And in a sea change for a country where infection with the virus was once taboo and recovered patients faced discrimination, people are taking to social media to show off their test results and give detailed descriptions of their experience while sick."When my body temperature went past 37.2 degrees, I began to add some sugar and salt to my lemon water," Beijing-based Xiaohongshu social site user "Nina" wrote in one account intended as advice for those not yet infected."I've been resurrected!!" wrote another account owner in the caption of a photo showing a row of five positive antigen tests and one negative.