Stocks of fever and cold medicines began to run low in China in early December as millions fell ill with COVID.
The abrupt relaxation of confinements has sparked a desperate race for medicines to palliate the symptoms of the virus as people fend off the disease on their own.
Many have been forced to turn to the black market for access to antivirals, with the most widely used, Paxlovid, selling for more than 20 times its original price.
Meanwhile, in some villages, locals said they had been using traditional home remedies (hot water with ginger and garlic) in the absence of medicines.
When the number of cases has brought about the health system’s collapse, Chinese pharmaceutical companies are rushing to manufacture drugs.
China’s state-run media, China Daily, said Thursday that labs would triple their capacity to manufacture critical fever and cough medicines.
The situation in China is chaotic, and what is expected in the coming days is even worse.
Millions of urban workers begin traveling back to their home cities for the Lunar New Year festivities, so the explosion of cases in rural areas will be a fact of life.
And although authorities say the virus has peaked in China’s megacities, the leader of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Xi Jinping, did not hide his concern.
According to Reuters, on Wednesday, Xi said, [quote]:
“I am most worried about the rural areas and farmers. Medical facilities are relatively weak in rural areas, thus prevention is difficult and the task is arduous.”
- Xi Jinping, leader of the Chinese Communist Party
On the other hand, skepticism about China’s official COVID data is widespread.
Authorities said Saturday there was a significant increase in COVID deaths and announced that nearly 60,000 people died in Chinese hospitals between December 8 and January 12.
But this figure is far from the actual figure, and there are several reasons to support this claim.
One is that the figure given by the CCP does not include those who died at home.
Another reason is what some Chinese doctors recently revealed: that in hospitals, they are pressured not to include COVID on death certificates, i.e., if the patient has some underlying disease, this pathology is entered as the cause of death.
And another reason is the fact that hospitals and funeral homes in China are collapsing, and the evidence is growing.
A University of Hong Kong epidemiologist said:
“Based on the reports of hospitals being overwhelmed and long queues outside funeral homes, we might estimate that a larger number of COVID deaths have occurred so far, maybe more than 600,000 rather than just 60,000.”
- Ben Cowling, an epidemiologist at Hong Kong University –
But as we mentioned, the outlook ahead is catastrophic due to the increase in Lunar New Year travel.
Without going any further, Airfinity, a UK-based health data company, made a recent estimate that sends shivers down the spine.
It forecasts 62 million infections between January 13 and 27, with a daily peak of 4.8 million cases and a death toll per day of up to 36,000.