The World Health Organization (WHO) is requesting more data from China amid an outbreak of pneumonia in children.
Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, a WHO epidemiologist, said the agency was ‘following up with China’ as hospitals across the country continue to be overwhelmed.
Face masks and social distancing are again being recommended in the secretive nation in a chilling echo of the early days of Covid.
The country is grappling with a spike in pneumonia, dubbed ‘white lung syndrome’ because of the way lung damage shows up on scans, among children that has been attributed to a rebound in respiratory illnesses rather than an entirely new virus.
China had one of the most brutal and longest lockdowns of any country in the world which the WHO says robbed children of vital immunity against seasonal illnesses
Dr Van Kerkhove told the conference today: ‘Yes, we are seeing an increase in respiratory infections around the world.
‘We’re in autumn and entering winter months, so we are expecting to see rises in respiratory infections regardless.
‘We are following up with China. They are seeing an increase due a number of different infections.
‘We are following up with our clinical network and following up with clinicians in China.
‘In terms of acute respiratory infections, we are looking at the burden on healthcare systems and looking at the healthcare capacities of systems.’
The WHO made the unusual move to publicly call for China to be transparent about the outbreak, which many believe is due to its mishandling of Covid when it was accused of shielding critical information on the disease in the early stages.
It comes after Chinese Health Ministry spokesman Mi Feng urged people in the country to again consider wearing face masks and distancing.
Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, he said: ‘Efforts should be made to increase the opening of relevant clinics and treatment areas, extend service hours and increase the supply of medicines.
‘It is necessary to do a good job in epidemic prevention and control in key crowded places.
‘[This includes] in schools, childcare institutions and nursing homes, and to reduce the flow of people and visits.’
Major pediatric hospitals are recording 7,000 admissions per day in some areas of Beijing, reports suggest.
The largest hospital in Tianjin — a province on the coast near Beijing — has allegedly been receiving more than 13,000 sick children through its doors daily.
There have also been reports of spikes in child illnesses in the province of Liaoning and in Shanghai — the country’s biggest city.
Patients being admitted to hospitals are reportedly suffering from high fever and lung inflammation, but without a cough or pulmonary nodules — lumps on the lungs that are usually the result of a past infection.
Scans are also showing opaque or clear areas inside their lungs, which can be caused by bacterial infections, leading to some doctors calling the disease ‘white lung syndrome’.