An officer stands between the tents to screen visitors outside the Shanghai Shanghai Hospital Clinic building in Shanghai, China, Monday February 03, 2020.
BEIJING – The global coronavirus pandemic is generating more money and government support for public health in China.
Whether it is new policies, capital or even a school, the emergence of what is officially called COVID-19 has intensified national attention to the inadequacy of China’s public health infrastructure. , from hospital beds to medical expertise.
The challenges in healthcare are global and not limited to China, which has been criticized for its early concealment of the highly contagious disease and recent attempts to divert its origin from the country.
Since the first appearance of the virus in late December in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the disease has killed more than 3,300 people in the country and more than 92,000 people abroad in more than 180 countries and regions.
The first cases in Wuhan were linked to a local live animal market. As the virus spread rapidly, the city rushed to build two new hospitals and reallocate other areas to treat tens of thousands of patients. At the end of 2018, the Wuhan Health Commission said that the occupancy rate of hospital beds was already 94%.
With the spread of the virus in China stalled, the authorities are now focusing on helping the economy recover after a prolonged foreclosure.
Last week, the central government called for a larger local government bond issue to support a variety of projects, including those in the area of public health. Previously, local government debt was concentrated on the development of more traditional infrastructure such as transport.
The level of public spending compared to individual public health spending in China is rather high compared to that of the main developed countries, according to Zhao Bowen, research director at Beijing-based Blue Stone Asset Management.
“As a result, directing some local government vouchers to health care and public health will help reduce the burden on individuals,” said Zhao, according to a CNBC translation of his Chinese remarks. It expects public funds to play the main role in meeting public health needs, while high-end health services can attract private companies and foreign capital.
An urgent global need
China is not alone in feeling the pressure on public health. The World Bank has warned in its economic update for East Asia and the Pacific released on March 30 that a vaccine is unlikely to be available for another year and a half. He also said hospitals will be so overwhelmed with coronavirus patients that it will be difficult to meet other needs, resulting in more deaths.
“Unless capacity increases dramatically, health systems could be under enormous strain for a period of two years,” said the report.
The World Bank has said it is ready to spend up to $ 160 billion over the next 15 months to help countries meet health and economic needs. The first batch of projects, worth $ 1.9 billion for 25 countries, was approved on April 2.
“I believe the current crisis is so severe that it will change the public’s priority for the health sector,” said Joachim von Amsberg, vice president of policy and strategy at the Asian Investment Investment Bank. infrastructure, based in Beijing, during a telephone interview. March 27.
“It is recognized that this is a very serious event that can reach or overcome the global financial crisis,” he said, noting that as a result, “I see a very strong will to act well beyond (the) traditional limit and scale. “
The multilateral development bank has intensified its own focus on public health. On April 3, he announced his intention to set up a $ 5 billion loan facility to help public and private entities affected by the coronavirus. A loan of $ 500 million for India is under consideration and $ 250 million for Indonesia. Turkey, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are also interested, according to von Amsberg.
The bank also announced on April 7 the approval of an emergency loan of around $ 355 million to support public health infrastructure in Beijing and Chongqing.
Trend in real estate investments
In the private sector, investor interest in health care opportunities in China has increased in recent years, especially given the country’s growing wealth, an aging population and underdeveloped systems such as l insurance and private hospitals.
Michael Xu, Managing Partner of CEC Asset Management, based in China, pointed out that the tens of millions of Chinese citizens who are reaching retirement age each year are richer than previous generations and will be able to pay for more health services. Dear.
“There is more and more private money making money in real estate. They are looking for real estate type investments,” said Xu, noting that “a hospital is like a hotel.” He expects this investment trend to be more visible next year.
Rapid advances in health-related research and development and technology have also spurred a multitude of start-ups looking to create new drugs or sell online health consultations. And faced with the virus, the demand for new types of equipment should increase.
Property management company JLL expects greater deployment of infrared thermometers, internet-connected sensors and robots capable of checking temperatures and disinfecting areas, according to Eric Lee, chief operating officer, asset and property management assets, for JLL Greater China.
On the pharmaceutical side, some Chinese research teams are already at the forefront of the global race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. CanSino Biologics, listed in Hong Kong, received approval last month to begin human trials.
Its funder Qiming Venture Partners announced on Thursday that it had closed Fund VII by raising $ 1.1 billion more than expected. The new fund’s investments are expected to be split between healthcare and technology, with some going to pre-IPO and advanced healthcare companies, according to Qiming managing partner Nisa Leung.
“I think public health infrastructure should probably be built by the government. I think it is a little more difficult as a private investor to invest in infrastructure,” said Leung in an interview telephone Thursday. “I have encouraged various departments to implement more public health management programs and degrees.”
Last week, Chinese real estate giant Vanke announced it had donated 200 million shares worth 5.3 billion yuan ($ 757.1 million) to the University of Tsinghua to create the Vanke School of Public Health. The contribution is described as a donation from an employee fund rather than from the listed company itself.
Margaret Chan, former executive director of the World Health Organization, will be the dean, while Vanke founder and honorary president Wang Shi will be honorary director, according to the online announcement. A school representative was not available to comment.
Part of the momentum for action is now a case of lessons learned from China’s Severe Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, epidemic about 17 years ago.
“If at the time or after (time) there had been more effort on drug development, we could have better managed this current coronavirus situation,” said Ding Sheng, director of the Global Health Drug Discovery Institute based in Beijing, which focuses on drugs for diseases in the developing world like tuberculosis. The non-profit organization was founded in 2016 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Tsinghua University and the Beijing municipal government as part of a public-private partnership. Ding is also the Dean of the School of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Tsinghua University.
“In the long term, I think we will see more comprehensive cooperation, especially in public health diseases,” said Ding. “In the past, this (was) something people talked about but (there was) little action.”