Chinese nationals in S'pore sending Panadol back home due to alleged shortage in China

Rising cases.

Kayla Wong | December 17, 2022, 04:37 PM

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A number of Chinese nationals residing in Singapore have started sending medicines back home due to concerns that their family might not be able to get their hands on such supplies.

China is reportedly facing a surge in cases after it ended its zero-Covid policy abruptly in the wake of widespread protests over extended lockdown measures that have lasted for almost three years since the start of the pandemic.

Parcels might take a month to reach China

According to Lianhe Zaobao, a queue had formed outside the Shun Xing Express outlet at People's Park Complex in Chinatown on Friday afternoon (Dec. 16).

The company specialises in sending packages between Singapore and China.

Most of the people waiting in line had over 10 boxes to send home. They packed mostly medicines and supplements such as Panadol Cough & Cold, Lianhua Qingwen Jiaonang (a popular brand of anti-inflammatory drug), cough syrups and Vitamin C effervescent tablets.

According to a delivery operator who spoke to Zaobao, however, Antigen Rapid Tests (ART) and prescription drugs are not allowed to be mailed.

It might take anytime from between two to four weeks, however, for packages to arrive at their destination in China, as the delivery time depends on the Covid measures in place and customs inspections, among other factors.

"Can't get Panadol in China now"

Zhang Rongrong, a 32-year-old student, told Zaobao that she is sending three parcels containing 18 boxes of Panadol and two bottles of cough syrup over to her parents in Beijing.

"You can't get Panadol in China now," she said. "Even if it takes a month for the parcel to get there, [my parents] could also use it after the Chinese New Year."

She added that while her friends and family in Beijing had not tested positive yet, she still wanted to send the medicines back so they will have a peace of mind even if they fall sick.

The total delivery fee was S$32, a price she felt was the most reasonable out of all the delivery companies she looked at.

Beijing is experiencing a surge of cases after the city relaxed most of its Covid measures, according to the Financial Times.

Queues reportedly formed in front of Chinese pharmacies even in freezing weather as people lined up for medication like paracetamol and ibuprofen. But they were turned away almost immediately as pharmacists said they were out of stock for these supplies.

Official data incongruent with ground reality

Official data, however, appears to paint a different picture than what the situation on the ground reflects.

The number of reported cases in China have dropped steadily since Dec. 8, the day when the Chinese government ditched its zero-Covid policy, with the number dropping from 21,093 cases on Dec. 8 to 7,134 cases on Dec. 13.

Also, despite the authorities having reported zero deaths since Dec. 4, workers at Beijing crematoriums said they were overwhelmed by the surge in demand, AFP reported.

Two funeral homes said they had been operating non-stop and providing same-day crematorium services to keep up with the sheer number of deaths.

China has only reported nine Covid deaths since mid-November 2022.

Shanghai has seen a recent surge in cases as well. While hospitals and clinics were swamped by patients, the streets in the city's usually bustling spots, the bund district and downtown core, were left quiet and empty, according to Nikkei Asia.

A 20-year-old Chinese national living in Shanghai, who spoke to Mothership on condition of anonymity, said she strongly suspects the Chinese government has concealed the actual figures, adding that there is indeed a shortage of medicine and Covid testing kits in China currently.

"This is ridiculous. Just among a group of Shanghai people that I knew through social media, more than 30 have been infected," she said. "Yet the government only reported 120 cases [on Dec. 11]. "

"My friend and I both tested positive for Covid-19 when we did our own tests, but our official test reports from the authorities still indicate our status as 'in progress' even after 72 hours. This is clearly their way of muddling up the official figures."

Top image adapted via Lianhe Zaobao & Panadol