Doctors in China have described the chaos spreading inside hospitals as Covid-19 infections grip the country.

Three healthcare professionals, who spoke anonymously to Sky News, painted a picture of emergency departments full of patients, “ventilators and oxygen machines everywhere” and “not enough IV beds”.

tough Zero-COVID restrictions lifted. Just three weeks ago in China and the virus is spreading rapidly.

But the scale of the impact is difficult to gauge because accurate case and death numbers are not being released and talking is too risky.

Despite this, some doctors have spoken exclusively to Sky News about the strain on the system.

A doctor in the northern city of Shenyang explained how “our emergency room (ER) is full of patients, dozens of times busier than usual”.

He said that it is not easy for the elderly to get admission.

“There aren’t enough ambulances. There are ventilators and oxygen machines everywhere in the ER.

“There aren’t enough IV beds. Before we had a doctor-to-patient ratio of 1:4 or 1:5, now it’s like 1:10.”

He also described the high death rate, which contrasts with official figures that say only a handful of people have died from the virus in the past few months.

A death from COVID In China, it is defined so narrowly that on a typical day, authorities will announce just one, two, three or even no deaths.

This is despite the fact that an estimated 250 million people (18% of the population) have been infected with COVID in December alone, according to information disclosed by sources close to the government.

What the doctor describes clearly contradicts the official figures.

“This wave of COVID is deadly for the elderly, especially those with underlying diseases and high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease,” the doctor said.

“For every 10 elderly patients with critical conditions admitted to the ER, about 50% die.”

A worker cleans the inside of an ambulance outside a hospital emergency department during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Chengdu, Sichuan province, China, on December 27, 2022.  REUTERS/Tingshu Wang
Doctors told Sky News there were not enough ambulances or hospital beds available.

‘A person should be on duty for the day’

Another doctor in Beijing told of hospital staff being overwhelmed with patients and many doctors and nurses falling ill.

“The department is understaffed as all nurses have tested positive for COVID-19. Now one person has to stay on duty for several days,” said the doctor.

“Most, if not all, patients for follow-up visits and consultations either have COVID or have recovered from COVID.”

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A third doctor spoke of extremely long waits to see patients.

China announced on December 7 that it would move to “improve” its COVID response and has since scrapped nearly all the regulations and infrastructure that supported it, including Removal of quarantine and screening rules for international arrivals.

But it leaves 1.4 billion people exposed because there is limited herd immunity and a large proportion of the elderly who are not fully vaccinated.

Additionally, the health care system is under-resourced with significantly fewer intensive care beds.

While the outbreak is predicted to peak in Beijing, the peak nationwide is not expected for another month or more and there are concerns about how smaller regional towns will cope.

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