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China nursing homes struggle to keep residents safe from COVID-19 wave

The Newyork times

BEIJING: China’s nursing homes are fighting an uphill battle to keep their elderly residents safe as a wave of COVID-19 infections sweeps the country following a relaxation of the government’s zero-tolerance virus policy.

Facilities are locking themselves out from the outside world with staff sleeping on site, while struggling to get their hands on medication.

China reported 2,097 new symptomatic COVID-19 infections a day earlier, the National Health Commission said on Sunday (Dec 18).

However, official figures have become an unreliable guide as less testing is being done across the country, while asymptomatic cases are also no longer being reported.

Authorities have warned of rapidly growing caseloads, and industry ministry official Zhou Jian said on Wednesday that the country was “making all-out efforts to ramp up the production of key medicines”.

Experts fear the country is ill-equipped to manage the “exit wave” of infections as it presses ahead with reopening, with millions of vulnerable elderly people still not fully vaccinated.

And eldercare facilities have now been left to fend for themselves as society reopens, the manager of one privately run Beijing home said.

“We are fully sealed off,” the manager, who asked to remain anonymous, told AFP.

Only food and supplies are allowed in, and no one is allowed to enter or leave.

He said the home had ordered medical supplies “at a high price”, but they had not arrived yet after a week, with the city’s logistics network battered by infections among delivery workers.

He also warned it would be impossible to keep the virus out forever. “Couriers and delivery personnel are almost all COVID positive,” he said.

“Even if you disinfect or throw away all the outer packaging, plus the plastic packaging, you can’t spray disinfectant on all the food that comes in.”

Source: Channel News Asia