Saturday, December 17, funeral facilities in China’s capital Beijing, a population of 22 million, rushed to meet up with burial and cremation requests as personnel and drivers testing positive for the new coronavirus phoned in sick.
China quickly modified its COVID-19 management rules more than a week ago, following an announcement that the Omicron strain had diminished and huge public demonstrations against President Xi Jinping’s zero-COVID policy.
China is realigning with a world that has mostly reopened to live with COVID-19, moving away from constant testing, lockdowns, and harsh travel restrictions.
China has instructed its population of 1,4 billion to treat minor symptoms at home unless they grow serious, as cities around the country prepare for the first waves of diseases.
Since the December 7 policy change, Beijing has not reported any COVID-19-related deaths. However, ill employees have affected the staffing of eateries, courier services, and the city’s approximately a dozen funeral homes.
“We have fewer cars and personnel currently,” a representative of Miyun Funeral Home told Reuters, adding that demand for cremation services was increasing. Numerous employees have tested positive.
It was initially unclear if the difficulty in meeting the increasing demand for cremation was a result of an increase in COVID-related fatalities.
A staff member at Huairou Funeral Home stated that three days were required before a body could be burned.
“You may transfer the body here on your own, it’s been busy lately,” the employee remarked.
China’s health ministry announced the last cases of COVID-19 on December 3. The latest fatality in the Chinese capital was announced on November 23.
On Friday, December 16, a reputable Chinese news site, Caixin, claimed that two seasoned state media journalists had died in Beijing after catching COVID-19, among the first known deaths since China removed the majority of its zero-COVID regulations. And on Saturday, Caixin reported the December 14 death of a 23-year-old medical student in Sichuan due to COVID-19.
Saturday, the National Health Commission revealed that the official COVID death toll of 5,235 had not changed.
According to fresh forecasts from the US Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, the rapid easing of China’s ultra-restrictive measures might result in an explosion of cases and over a million fatalities by 2023. (IHME).
Wu Zunyou, a renowned Chinese epidemiologist, stated on Saturday that if these regulations had been abolished earlier, say on January 3 of this year, 250,000 Chinese citizens would have perished.
Wu stated that as of December 5, the proportion of COVID-19 patients who were very or critically sick has decreased to 0.18 percent of recorded cases, down from 3.32 percent last year and 16.4 percent in 2020.
This indicates that China’s mortality rate is gradually declining, he stated without more explanation.
It was unknown if the proportion of very sick patients had changed after December 5. On December 7, regular PCR testing and obligatory case reporting were discontinued.
A staff member at Dongjiao Funeral Home stated, “There are lengthy lines of hearses here, and it’s uncertain when there will be openings.”
When questioned if the fatalities were due to COVID, the employee said, “Normal deaths.”
The paucity of reported COVID-19 fatalities over the previous ten days has sparked a controversy on social media regarding data sharing, which has been fanned by a shortage of hospitalization and serious illness numbers.
“Why are these numbers so elusive? What’s happening? Have they not tallied them or are they just not announcing them?” a Chinese social media user queried.
China ceased reporting asymptomatic cases on Wednesday, claiming a shortage of PCR testing among those with no symptoms, which made it difficult to precisely record the overall number of cases.
As a result of the loosening of zero-COVID regulations across the nation, official statistics are no longer a valid indicator.
To combat rising COVID-19 infections across China, local education officials in Shanghai, located more than 1,050 kilometers (620 miles) south of Beijing, notified the majority of schools on Saturday that they must attend courses online beginning on Monday.
Even though the theme park was functioning properly, Shanghai Disney Resort said on Saturday that entertainment options may be scaled back due to impending personnel shortages.