China’s health ministry has called on local authorities to take immediate action and increase the number of fever clinics amidst a surge in respiratory illnesses. This predicament arises as China experiences its first full winter season since easing COVID-19 restrictions. The severity of the situation became a global concern when the World Health Organization (WHO) requested additional information from China, citing a report by the Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases on clusters of undiagnosed pneumonia in children. Questions regarding transparency have been raised regarding China and the WHO’s reporting during the early stages of the pandemic, originating in Wuhan, China, in late 2019. Addressing concerns, the WHO confirmed on Friday that no new or unusual pathogens have been identified in the recent illnesses. However, the National Health Commission spokesperson, Mi Feng, has revealed that the surge in acute respiratory illnesses is connected to the simultaneous circulation of several pathogens, most notably influenza.
To combat the escalating situation, Mi Feng emphasized the need to increase the number of relevant clinics and treatment areas, extend service hours, and ensure sufficient drug supplies. He also stressed the critical importance of implementing effective epidemic prevention and control measures in key crowded places such as schools, childcare institutions, and nursing homes. Limiting the flow of people and visits to these locations can greatly reduce the risk of transmission. It is vital for authorities to prioritize the protection of vulnerable groups, including children, as the number of cases among them has been particularly high in northern areas like Beijing and Liaoning province. Hospitals in these regions are currently experiencing long waiting times, emphasizing the urgent need for immediate action.
The State Council of China, the country’s cabinet, issued a warning on Friday that influenza cases would peak during the winter and spring seasons. Additionally, they cautioned that mycoplasma pneumoniae infection would remain high in some areas. The State Council also highlighted the risk of a potential rebound in COVID-19 infections. In response, they requested all localities to enhance their reporting systems for infectious diseases, ensuring timely and accurate information dissemination.
The WHO has reported that data from China suggests the recent spike in respiratory illnesses is linked to the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions 11 months ago. The circulation of known pathogens such as mycoplasma pneumoniae, a bacterial infection common among children, is also contributing to the surge. This infection has been prevalent since May.
China is facing a significant rise in respiratory illnesses during its first winter season after easing COVID-19 restrictions. The urgent call to increase the number of fever clinics, extend service hours, and ensure the availability of essential medications is crucial to manage the situation effectively. Implementing strict epidemic prevention and control measures in crowded places and reducing the flow of people and visits will aid in curbing the spread. The State Council’s warnings regarding the peak seasons for influenza and mycoplasma pneumoniae infection, along with the potential rebound of COVID-19 cases, provide necessary guidance for localities to strengthen their reporting systems. By addressing these challenges proactively, China can minimize the impact of respiratory illnesses and safeguard the well-being of its population.