China has brought back masks and social distancing in a chilling echo of lockdown as they battle a mystery pneumonia outbreak four years on from Covid.
A common bacterial infection called mycoplasma pneumoniae has circulated since May but is now showing ground glass opacity in lung scans – an indicator of severe respiratory illness.
Also known as “white lung syndrome”, many parents are deeply worried and are having to wait at least a day just for emergency care.
But China continues to insist that flu and the usual winter bugs are to blame for the latest outbreak, rather than a new virus, and can cope with the spike in sickness.
Local authorities, however, are already being called upon to open more fever clinics and promote vaccine uptake among children and the elderly.
“Efforts should be made to increase the opening of relevant clinics and treatment areas, extend service hours and increase the supply of medicines,” said ministry spokesman Mi Feng.
He also advised people to wear masks and called on local authorities to focus on preventing the spread of illnesses in crowded places such as schools and nursing homes.
But his statement comes after a Beijing children’s hospital told state media CCTV that at least 7,000 patients were being admitted daily to the institution, exceeding capacity.
t followed up the largest paediatric hospital in nearby Tianjin reportedly receiving more than 13,000 children through its doors.
The concerning spread of illness comes as the nation enters its first full winter season since lifting strict COVID-19 restrictions last December.
Professor Francois Balloux, from the UCL Genetics Institute, has blamed China’s strict lockdown lowering immunity for the “exit wave” sweeping across the country.