Beijing expects COVID surge as mutation risks concern experts

Hospitals should expand ICU beds as a priority, with COVID peak expected to last until end of January, expert says.

Beijing expects COVID surge as mutation risks concern experts

Beijing faces a surge in severe COVID-19 cases over the next two weeks, a respiratory expert in China has said, amid global concerns over possible mutations and knock-on effects for the world economy after the recent surprise lifting of China’s strict zero-COVID policies.

The easing of restrictions across China has coincided with a jump in infections experts say will likely gather pace through the winter, with some projections even suggesting China could face more than a million deaths next year, the Reuters news agency has reported.

“We must act quickly and prepare fever clinics, emergency and severe treatment resources,” Wang Guangfa, a respiratory expert from Peking University First Hospital, told the country’s state-run Global Times on Tuesday.

Wang said hospitals should expand ICU beds as a priority and that the COVID-19 peak will likely last until the end of China’s Spring Festival, which will fall on January 22.

COVID-19 cases will then fall off and life should gradually return to normal around the end of February and the beginning of March, Wang said.

After the peak, people must not let their guard down, Wang added, describing the “dire consequences” if the virus were again to transfer between humans and animals.

“The current COVID-19 strain may be less virulent, but it may not go the same way on animals. Maybe it seems less severe for animals but at some point, the virus can still jump to humans, with dire consequences,” Wang said.

Following widespread protests in China earlier this month, the country of 1.4bn people started dismantling its “zero-COVID” lockdowns and testing, which had largely kept the virus away for three years at great economic and psychological costs.