China Covid: ‘Panic-buying’ and shortages as restrictions are eased

China is facing problems with stockpiling after it relaxed its most severe Covid-19 policies last week.

People have been rushing to buy ibuprofen, cold medicines and Covid testing kits amid reports of shortages.

Products for home remedies are now largely unavailable online, including lemons and canned peaches rich in vitamin C, and electrolysed water.

Hoarding has been a common global issue but this may be the first instance of it after lockdowns were eased.

In China, as elsewhere in the world, it has been common to see people sharing pictures online of bare grocery aisles in major cities ahead of strict “stay at home” orders being imposed.

But now the country has eased track-and-trace rules, and has allowed people to self-isolate at home and self-test for the virus, people appear to be panic-buying medicines in anticipation of a winter wave.

Local governments have been urged to upgrade their ICU units and open fever clinics by the end of the month “in preparation for waves of infection”.

And there are already signs that the health system is being quickly overwhelmed. Video has circulated this week of patients being hooked up to IV drips from their cars “as clinics are full”.

China Daily reports on how there has been an “explosive growth in demand” for pain-relief medicines, vitamins and cold/flu drugs.

Some outlets have shared pictures of empty pharmacy aisles, and media have been running stories throughout the week on how production lines at pharmaceutical firms are now working “full capacity” to deal with the surge of demand.

The China Daily newspaper noted that panic-buying had been so rife that the government in the city of Guangzhou had called for “sensible purchasing”.

“There is no need for hoarding them in large quantities,” it said in a statement. Guangzhou is the city that has seen the highest number of cases of the virus in recent weeks.

Last week, the Global Times newspaper also observed that the turnover for Covid-19 detection kits had increased more than 300% in line with China’s new eased Covid policies. It said that kits quickly became out of stock on leading platforms like JD Health.

It reports that lemons have sold out on some shopping platforms, as well as “lemon-flavoured tea, lemon-flavoured sweets and lemon-flavoured sparkling water”.

China Daily observes a similar trend with tinned peaches. It notes that as the products are “rich in vitamin C” and “have a longer shelf life”, they have become coveted products both online and offline.

“On some online shopping platforms, the demand for canned yellow peaches is rising so sharply that they are frequently labelled ‘out of stock’,” the newspaper says. Sina News says that rumours have spread online that they can “relieve symptoms” of Covid-19.

Doctors, however, have disputed this, with some appearing on leading broadcaster CCTV warning people not to take vitamin C “in excess”. Some have even warned that excessively eating peaches could “aggravate a cough”.

Other therapies have also quickly been tipped to follow suit in selling out online.

Pear Video observed a surge of people rushing to buy electrolyte water, after it was marketed as “helpful with hydration after sweating or a fever”.

The Global Times also adds that that rumours have circulated online that “drinking high quantities of alcohol”, can “prevent” or “kill the virus” and has warned people that there are only health dangers at doing so.

Papers are saturated with warnings from doctors at the moment against people “blindly” buying drugs, mixing medicines, or taking more than is necessary.

China’s Food and Drink Administration has urged drug-related companies to “ensure the quality, safety and supply” of Covid-19 therapies. It has vowed strengthened supervision over the production and circulation of such products.

Market supervisory authorities are warning consumers not to buy touted Covid-19 therapies online unless livestreamers have proper medical qualifications. Advice is being given to people to buy products through credited channels, so that they do not buy “counterfeit drugs”.

Outlets are also stressing that “health kits” are being arranged to ensure that especially vulnerable patients are not left more vulnerable.

China Daily reports that elderly residents and those with chronic diseases are receiving packs that contain medicines, antigen tests and throat syrups in the city of Wuhan, China’s original Covid-10 epicentre.

Source: The BBC News

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