CHONGQING: 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 on Thursday (Dec 22).
In Chongqing, and across the country, the virus is surging. Authorities say the number of cases is impossible to keep track of after the abrupt abandonment of years of mass testing, lockdowns and travel restrictions.
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 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 treatment 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-19 patients, a doctor said: “Basically.”
Five were strapped to respirators and had obvious breathing difficulties.
Millions of elderly across China are still not fully vaccinated, raising concerns that the virus will kill the country’s most vulnerable citizens in huge numbers.
But under new government guidelines, many of those deaths would not be blamed on COVID-19.
Previously, people who died of an illness while infected with the virus were counted as a COVID-19 death, but now only those who directly die of respiratory failure caused by the virus will be counted.