Covid wave sparks panic across China - Hospitals full as cremations 'can't keep up' with demand

Covid: Emergency wards in China are 'overwhelmed' with Covid patients
Covid: Emergency wards in China are 'overwhelmed' with Covid patients

Hospitals and crematoriums in China are being 'overwhelmed' by a surge in Covid cases

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Emergency wards and crematoriums across China have been scrambling to cope with the country’s biggest outbreak of Covid since the pandemic began in Wuhan in 2020.

Patients in Beijing have been arriving at hospitals in “ever-increasing” numbers with many elderly people unwell with Covid and pneumonia symptoms.

Many emergency rooms are also turning away ambulances, while patients are left on benches in hospital corridors due to a lack of beds.

Crematoriums have also been struggling this month due to heavy demand after Covid restrictions were lifted earlier this month.

China: Covid cases in China have surged after restrictions were lifted
China: Covid cases in China have surged after restrictions were lifted

Beijing-based doctor Howard Bernstein said the hospitals are “overwhelmed”.

Following a “stressful” shift at privately owned Beijing United Family Hospital, Bernstein told Reuters: "The hospital is just overwhelmed from top to bottom.

"The ICU is full, as are the emergency department, the fever clinic and other wards", he said.

“A lot of them got admitted to the hospital. They're not getting better in a day or two, so there's no flow, and therefore people keep coming to the ER, but they can't go upstairs into hospital rooms," he said. "They're stuck in the ER for days."

He added: "The biggest challenge, honestly, is I think we were just unprepared for this.”

A funeral shop owner estimated that they were cremating 20 to 30 bodies per day, in comparison to three to four before Covid restrictions were lifted.

According to Reuters, one employee at the Zhuozhou crematorium in the Hebei province near Beijing said furnaces are burning overtime following the spike in deaths.

Zhao Yongsheng, a worker at a funeral goods shop near a local hospital said: “There’s been so many people dying.

“They work day and night, but they can’t burn them all.”

Crematoriums in China are struggling to cope with demand
Crematoriums in China are struggling to cope with demand

At a crematorium in Gaobeidian, around 20 kilometres south of Zhuozhou, the body of one 82-year-old woman was brought from Beijing, a two-hour drive, because funeral homes in China’s capital were packed, according to the woman’s grandson, Liang.

China reported no Covid deaths on the mainland for the six days through Sunday, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said on Sunday, even as crematories faced surging demand.

Sonia Jutard-Bourreau, 48, chief medical officer at the private Raffles Hospital in Beijing, said patients' average age has increased by about 40 years to over 70 in the space of a week.

She said: "It's always the same profile. That is most of the patients have not been vaccinated."

“They want the medicine like a replacement of the vaccine, but the medicine does not replace the vaccine."