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Chinese state-run paper acknowledges spike in illnesses connected to government’s lockdown strategy

The admission by the Chinese government highlights the debate over strict lockdowns and enduring issues in the Chinese healthcare system.

Published: November 24, 2023 4:46pm

A Chinese state-run paper published in English acknowledged on Thursday that a recent spike in respiratory illness in China is connected to the country’s COVID-19 lockdown strategy.

“The prevalence of respiratory illnesses this winter seems more noticeable than previous years, one of the key reasons being the rise of an 'immunity gap' resulting from decreased antibodies against these pathogens among the general public due to the protective precautions taken in the past three years,” the Global Times wrote on Thursday, citing a Chinese medical expert.

China has seen a spike in respiratory illnesses, particularly among children, in Northern China in recent weeks. The spike appears to be straining Chinese hospitals, according to the Global Times.

"I brought my kid to Beijing Children's Hospital a few days ago. It was fully packed. There were 300 people in front of us waiting. We waited four hours until afternoon to see a doctor,” one witness told the paper. The Global Times reported that similar situations were occurring throughout the country and in some of China’s most populous cities, like Shanghai.

In a press conference on November 13, Chinese health officials attributed the increase in respiratory illnesses to joint effects from the lifting of COVID-19 lockdowns and the normal cold season.

After the World Health Organization demanded information from the country—evoking memories of the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic—the Chinese government told the WHO that it has not detected any “unusual or novel pathogens.”

The Chinese government implemented a strict lockdown program throughout much of the COVID-19 pandemic which included, in some cases, shutting citizens indoors without food or water and separating families into quarantine camps.