As a result of the government's decision to abandon its tough coronavirus strategy, one of China's top medical authorities has expressed concern over an increase in COVID-19 cases, according to state media on Sunday.

In an interview with state media that was released on Sunday, leading epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan stated that the Omicron strain of the virus that is common in China was highly contagious and could cause an increase in cases. Beijing's stores and eateries are abandoned as the nation braces for an outbreak of diseases as a result of the decision to pull back mandated testing, permit some positive individuals to quarantine at home, and lift widespread lockdowns.

"The (current) Omicron mutation ... is very contagious ... one person can transmit to 22 people," Zhong, a leading adviser to the government throughout the pandemic said. "Currently, the epidemic in China is ... spreading rapidly, and under such circumstances, no matter how strong the prevention and control is, it will be difficult to cut off the transmission chain completely."

The loosening of China's so-called "zero-COVID" policy followed countrywide demonstrations against severe viral controls that had damaged the economy and restricted millions to their homes. However, the nation is currently dealing with an increase in cases that it is ill-equipped to handle, with millions of older people who have not had all recommended vaccinations and underfunded facilities that are unable to accommodate large patient volumes.

Jiao Yahui, director of the Department of Medical Affairs at the National Health Commission, issued a warning on Friday that the nation only has one intensive care unit bed for every 10,000 citizens. To deal with the surge in coronavirus patients, she said 106,000 doctors and 177,700 nurses will be redirected to intensive care units, but she did not provide information on how this would affect the health system's capacity to treat other diseases.

On Sunday, long lineups formed outside pharmacies in Beijing as people rushed to stockpile antigen test kits and cold and fever medications. Some individuals told AFP they were buying medications online from pharmacies in nearby cities. Numerous eateries and small businesses in Beijing put up signs stating they were "temporarily closed" without providing any further information.

Several big online grocery and food delivery companies including Meituan, Fresh Hippo, and Ding Dong were struggling to operate in Beijing without adequate delivery drivers. Following the government's decision to discontinue routine mass testing, official caseloads in China have dramatically decreased. Now, only certain groups, such as healthcare professionals and delivery drivers, are exempt from the regulations.