China seeks to quell Covid-19 falsehoods amid panic-buying of drugs

A delivery driver picks up medicine from a pharmacy in Beijing on Dec 7, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING – China is warning its citizens against some questionable and risky attempts at self-treatment amid surging coronavirus infections, as the nation seeks to tackle panic-buying of drugs following an unexpectedly swift unwinding of its Covid Zero policy.

The People’s Daily, the Communist Party mouthpiece, admonished the practice of mixing or taking more drugs to nurse a fever, while quashing speculation that the World Health Organisation had advised against taking ibuprofen. Separately, the Beijing Evening News cautioned that overdosing of medicines could lead to liver failure.

The state-controlled media also pushed back against long-held false beliefs that canned yellow peaches could help with recovery and eating oranges could lead to a positive antigen test.

“Prevent the pandemic with science, do not be misled by these rumors,” the People’s Daily wrote on Monday in a post on the social media platform Weibo.

Drugstores and hospital pharmacies across major cities are reporting running out of stocks of antipyretics, with ibuprofen and paracetamol being the most popular ones. Branded ones have long been snapped up, and the ones still available are less-known generic versions.

Authorities have urged residents to refrain from stockpiling and panic-buying. 

Several other countries, including Singapore, have experienced similar chaos at the peak of the pandemic, with stores running out of personal-care products such as sanitizers and toilet paper.

Even Hong Kong experienced panic-buying in the early months of the pandemic, causing hardships to residents of the Chinese territory.

China’s words of caution are coming days after authorities announced the easing of critical pandemic restrictions, including requirements for PCR tests to enter most public venues and forced quarantines for infected people and their close contacts.

The surprise about-turn appears to be turbocharged by widespread protests against the punishing Covid Zero regime.

Some estimates predict the country’s daily case tally at the peak to rise to 5.6 million, with London-based research platform Airfinity forecasting that between 1.3 million and 2.1 million may die. BLOOMBERG

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