In an effort to prevent the virus from letting rip across China, Shanghai residents endured a two-month lockdown which ended on Jun 1, with many losing income and having poor access to basic necessities. Hundreds died and hundreds of thousands were infected during those two months.
Experts say China could face more than a million COVID-19 deaths next year.
The head of the World Health Organization said it is concerned about the spike in infections and is supporting the government to focus on vaccinating those at the highest risk.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters the agency needed more detailed information on disease severity, hospital admissions and requirements for intensive care units for a comprehensive assessment.
China’s policy U-turn caught a fragile health system unprepared, with hospitals scrambling for beds and blood, pharmacies for drugs and authorities racing to build special clinics.
Smaller cities away from the affluent eastern and southern coast are particularly vulnerable. Tongchuan, a city of 700,000 in the northwestern Shaanxi province, called on Wednesday for all medical workers who retired in the past five years to join the battle against COVID-19.
“Medical institutions at all levels in the city are under great pressure,” it said in a public notice.
State media said local governments were trying to tackle drug shortages, while pharmaceutical companies were working extra time to boost supplies.
Dongguan, a sprawling city in southern China, said a total of 100,000 ibuprofen tablets had arrived in the city, and will be distributed to 41 state drug stores this week, before being made available for free, the Global Times reported.
In Wuhan, the central city where the virus was first discovered in late 2019, 3 million ibuprofen tablets have been supplied to medical institutions and retail pharmacies each day since Dec 17, the report said.
Authorities in Sanya on the southern Hainan island have lined up 18 pharmacies to distribute free drugs, while pharmacies in Zhoukou are giving as many as 10 free tablets a day to residents who present an ID card.