As COVID-19 cases in China continue to rise, Beijing will soon start distributing Pfizer’s Covid-19 drug Paxlovid to the community health centres in forthcoming days, CNN reported citing state media on Monday.
IMAGE: A man takes a rapid antigen test for COVID-19 at the entrance of a hospital in Shanghai. Photograph: Aly Song/Reuters
The report comes as the city grapples with an unprecedented wave of infections that has severely strained its hospitals and emptied pharmacy shelves.
According to the state-run China News Service, after getting training, community doctors would dispense the medicine to COVID-19 patients and provide information on how to use it.
“We have received the notice from officials, but it is not clear when the drugs will arrive,” CNN cited a worker at a local community health centre in Beijing’s Xicheng district as saying.
Paxlovid remains the only foreign medicine to treat COVID-19 that has been approved by China’s regulator for nationwide use, but the drug’s access is a challenging process.
Following countrywide demonstrations over the ‘Zero Covid’ policy, China abruptly abandoned its policy last month after nearly three years of lockdowns, quarantines, and mass testing.
The rapid policy change has triggered panic buying of fever and cold medications, resulting in significant shortages at pharmacies and online shopping platforms.
Long lineups have become the norm outside fever clinics and hospital wards in the country’s capital, Beijing, and elsewhere, according to CNN.
After China abandoned its restrictive ‘Zero Covid’ policy about two weeks ago, regional numbers of infected persons with coronavirus point to explosive outbreaks and overstretched healthcare systems, writes Chang Che, Asia technology correspondent for The New York Times.
However, the intensity and magnitude of the country’s first nationwide outbreak have remained largely a mystery as official figures from the central government remain low.
At a news conference on Sunday, an official in Zhejiang Province, home to 65 million people, estimated that daily Covid cases there had exceeded one million.
In the eastern city of Qingdao, population 10 million, a health minister said on Friday that there were roughly half a million new cases each day, a number he expected would rise sharply in the coming days, local news sites reported.
In Dongguan, a city of seven million in central Guangdong Province, a city health commission report on Friday estimated between 250,000 and 300,000 new cases daily.
And in northwestern Shaanxi Province, officials in Yulin, a city of roughly 3.6 million people, logged 157,000 infected on Friday, with models estimating that more than a third of the city’s population had already been infected, according to local media.