Worries about China’s COVID-19 outbreak spark run on medicines in Australia

Concerned Chinese Australians have begun sending over-the-counter cold and flu medication to family members in China amid a surge there in COVID-19 cases that has depleted local stocks.

Sydney resident Fan Yi told the ABC she had bought dozens of packets of painkillers and sent them to her parents, who are in their 70s, in Shanghai. 

Long lines have been seen outside fever clinics and anecdotal reports indicate a huge increase in COVID-19 cases after widespread protests led to Beijing easing strict pandemic measures.

As rules requiring people to test negative before entering public places were lifted, Beijing warned about tight medical supplies and price gouging from retailers.

“Please buy rationally, buy on demand, and do not blindly stock up,” the Beijing Municipal Food and Drug Administration said.

Ms Fan said she became concerned about the availability of medicines as soon as the relaxed restrictions were announced.

“My generation’s parents are at least 70 years old,” Ms Fan said. 

“As they don’t live in Australia, we certainly have to send something to them.”

A Chinese woman wearing sunglasses
Ms Fan said she was concerned about her parents in Shanghai, who are in their 70s.(Supplied)

Ms Fan, who came to Australia in 2007, is a full-time mother in Sydney’s Eastwood.

“We don’t want our parents to go to the hospital because the city’s medical facilities will definitely be overloaded,” she said.

“In these circumstances, you should count on yourself rather than the hospital.”

Healthcare system under siege

An empty shelf of cold medicine at a pharmacy.
Many pharmacies in China have sold out of over-the-counter cold and flu medication. (AFP: Yuxuan Zhang)

China’s official tally of COVID-19 cases has declined since the relaxation of restrictions earlier this month. 

However, the figures have become an unreliable guide as the government is conducting less testing across the country.  

Authorities have recommended healthcare workers with minor COVID-19 symptoms remain on the front lines, according to an official document seen by the ABC.

In Shanghai — where medicines became scarce during the strict lockdowns earlier this year — stockpiling of medicines at home has become commonplace, Ms Fan said.

Chinese medical workers on the street
The World Health Organization has warned China faces “very tough” times ahead.(Reuters: Aly Song)

Cold and flu medicines have been sold out in many domestic pharmacies and online platforms since last week.

On Alibaba, China’s largest online shopping platform, the price of regular paracetamol tablets has increased tenfold in the past week from $4 to $40 for 20 tablets.

Chinese state media CCTV reported that government-owned pharmaceutical company Sinopharm had tripled its daily production capacity of key drugs due to a sharp increase in demand for medicines to treat fever and cough symptoms.

“I am trying to help them be prepared for any emergency circumstances just in case they have a temperature for a couple of days,” Ms Fan said.

“As soon as I sent it to my parents, our relatives and friends also asked if they could have some too.”

Chinese medical workers on the street
Chinese hospitals have asked employees with mild COVID symptoms to keep working.(Reuters: Thomas Peter)

Ms Fan said her friends in Sydney had sent similar products to their families in China too.

However, she said her local Chemist Warehouse had capped each customer’s purchase at one box per person.

“It is very difficult to buy the medicine now because of the restrictions,” she said.

The ABC has approached Chemist Warehouse for comments.

Logistics firms warn customers to follow policies

A spokesperson for Australia Post warned customers trying to send medicines overseas that importation rules could change at short notice.

“Customers should contact local authorities in China for the latest information,” the spokesperson said.

A screenshot of TMall's Panadol price
The price of paracetamol has increased by 10 times on Alibaba. (Screenshot: Alibaba TMall)

Zhao Danqing, a spokesperson for logistics firm Changjiang Express, told the ABC there had been an increase in requests for information about sending medicines to China recently.

“Most recent queries are related to flu medicines and supplements that help boost immunity,” Mr Zhao said.

“The destinations are Chinese cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, where some serious outbreaks are unfolding at the moment.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Previous post Global Service Robotics Market Report 2022 to 2027 – Growing Need to Control, Monitor, and Manage Several Operations in the Logistics, Healthcare and Household Sectors Drives Demand – ResearchAndMarkets.com
Next post Reverse Distributors: A Case Study in Alternative Opportunities in Healthcare Private Equity | Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP