Elderly patients lined the wards of hospitals in major cities in China Thursday as the country battled a wave of Covid cases.
The virus is surging across the vast Asian nation in outbreak authorities say is impossible to track after the end of mandatory mass testing.
And with cases soaring, Washington called on Beijing to share its Covid outbreak data, saying China’s caseload impacts the world.
Attached to a breathing tube under a pile of blankets, an old man racked with Covid-19 lay groaning on a stretcher in the emergency department of a hospital in central China.
A paramedic at Chongqing Medical University First Affiliated Hospital, who confirmed the old man was a COVID-19 patient, said he had picked up more than 10 people a day, 80 to 90 per cent of whom were infected with the coronavirus.
“Most of them are elderly people,” he said.
“A lot of hospital staff are positive as well, but we have no choice but to carry on working.”
The old man waited half an hour to be treated, while in a nearby room AFP saw six other people in sick beds surrounded by harried doctors and relatives.
They, too, were mostly elderly and, when asked if they were all Covid patients, a doctor said: “Basically.”
Five were strapped to respirators and had obvious breathing difficulties.
Millions of elderly people across China are still not fully vaccinated, raising concerns that the virus may kill the most vulnerable citizens in huge numbers.
Under new government guidelines, however, many of those deaths would not be blamed on Covid.
In Shanghai, the corridors of an emergency department were lined with stretchers filled with elderly people hooked up to oxygen tanks.
An AFP reporter counted at least 15 such patients spilling out from wards into the hallway, some with suitcases next to their trolleys.
Swaddled in colourful duvets, they wheezed weakly through their masks as medical workers attended to them. Many appeared mostly unresponsive.
With Beijing scrambling to contain the outbreak, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday called on China to share information on its Covid crisis, as Washington renewed an offer to share American vaccines.
“It is very important for all countries, including China, to focus on people getting vaccinated, making testing and treatment available and, importantly, sharing information with the world about what they’re experiencing — because it has implications not just for China, but for the entire world,” Blinken told a news conference.
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