You might have heard China recently eased their restrictions and started opening up again.
The consequences? We may need to start preparing for an imminent COVID-19 wave, which will be massive.
China Seeing Surge In Cases As They Lift “Zero-COVID” Restrictions
After tying itself to the zero-COVID policy for the longest time, China is unfortunately now falling apart in light of the nation’s rapid easing of its COVID-19 restrictions.
For those that haven’t heard, China recently lifted their “zero-COVID” restrictions in response to a spate of rare nationwide protests. However, the retreat from the policy isn’t without its challenges.
Since China lifted its restrictions, COVID-19 cases have been surging, and a massive COVID-19 wave appears to be just on the horizon.
Hospitals Strained; Widespread Shortages in Medical Supplies and Groceries
China’s surge in cases has already proven to be a thorn in the nation’s side: doctors and nurses are falling victim to COVID-19, but most have no option but to continue working.
Further, hospitals in China are starting to show signs of strain as the surge in COVID-19 cases is too overwhelming.
According to Reuters, a doctor at a tertiary hospital in Sichuan province said that up to 800 people with fevers were coming to the hospital daily.
We can’t even deal with one client… Now imagine dealing with 800 a day.
The doctor also added that there are no protective measures for hospital staff who test positive for COVID-19.
Hospitals across Beijing, Anhui and Wuhan report having up to 80% of their staff down with COVID-19. Yet, most doctors at these hospitals continue to work nonetheless.
A high-pressure environment, dealing with your COVID-19 symptoms and impatient patients: it’s a recipe for disaster.
The surge in COVID-19 cases in China has also caused widespread shortages of food and essential medical supplies.
There simply isn’t enough to go around.
While the Beijing city government has tried to address the shortage issue by mapping shortages and deploying more stock to areas that need it, the problem has continued to persist.
Drugs that help relieve fevers are still yet to be back on the shelves, although people need them to be.
In some provinces like Wuhan, there also appears to be a shortage of essential medical supplies like rapid antigen test kits.
Before the lifting of the “zero-COVID” restrictions, there was hardly any demand for the test kits. As such, most pharmacies didn’t bother stocking up on the test kits until now. Singaporeans probably have more test kits stashed in a corner of their home than the pharmacies do.
The shortages, however, aren’t just limited to medical supplies. China is seeing problems with deliveries of food and groceries as well.
As more people turn towards online shopping to avoid the risk of a COVID-19 infection, the volume of online orders has skyrocketed.
The issue? There aren’t enough delivery drivers to deliver all those orders.
So the next time you feel like complaining about your one-hour wait time on GrabFood, know that things could be much worse.
Virus Likely To Mutate Again With China’s Reopening
Our very own Minister for Health, Mr Ong Ye Kung, has also warned of virus mutations which could potentially arise from China’s reopening.
He said that with 1.3 billion people mostly uninfected, the virus inevitably would undergo mutations once it starts making its way through a reopening China.
Other healthcare experts suggested the same in light of the surge in COVID-19 cases in the previously “zero-COVID” nation. However, these experts also added that a new variant arising from China’s reopening, while more transmissible than its predecessors, is likely to be less severe.
That’s right. If you thought the effects of Omicron were mild enough, the new variant would likely be even milder than that.
That’s good news. While a more transmissible variant will cause more COVID-19 waves, only severe variants will put hospitals under strain.
The other piece of good news? Most of us have already gained significant immunity from vaccinations or past infections.
That’s right. Not only did the vaccination get you a few days of medical leave, but it’s also doing what it’s supposed to do: to keep you safe from infections.
It’s why cases aren’t as severe and why there’s less of a need to admit yourself to the hospital when you test positive now.
The only time you’ll see PM Lee make a comeback with his magic cup to re-introduce COVID-19 restrictions is if there is a new variant that is not currently suppressed by our immunity.
The World Braces For A Massive COVID-19 Wave; But Experts Say Nations are Unlikely to Tighten Restrictions
As China’s situation worsens, the world is preparing itself for an imminent COVID-19 wave. And this one’s going to be massive.
Yet, experts also say countries are unlikely to re-introduce their COVID-19 restrictions.
As you can probably tell by the Instagram stories of all your friends on vacation now, most countries have already lifted their stringent COVID-19 restrictions.
Further, many of these countries have already had a majority of their populations infected with COVID-19 in the past. Most countries have a certain extent of hybrid immunity, so it’s unlikely that stringent restrictions are required to fend off the imminent wave.
With any luck, we’ll be able to celebrate Chinese New Year this time without hiding our relatives’ shoes in the house. Wait, what Just kidding.
On the other hand, China doesn’t have much hybrid immunity thanks to their strict “zero-COVID” restrictions, which were in place until recently. Vaccine hesitancy coupled with little exposure to past infection means that as China reopens, its COVID-19 cases will only continue to surge.
Another reason why nations are unlikely to tighten restrictions again is, you guessed it: money.
Singapore is just one of the many economies relying on China as a critical trading partner. After all, China is the world’s second-largest economy. Its reopening is a substantial economic opportunity for many economies, so nations are unlikely to tighten restrictions now.
As for Singapore, Mr Ong has said that whenever our small island nation can open up, we will only continue opening up.
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