A staff member in full protective gear yelled, "Deceased, deceased," as she handed a nurse a death certificate in their central China hospital filled to capacity with Covid patients.
China is fighting a wave of infections that have been particularly bad for the elderly, but the country has only officially recorded a few deaths from the coronavirus since the government changed how deaths from the Covid are counted.
At No. When AFP went to 5 People's Hospital in Chongqing on Friday, the main lobby had been turned into a temporary Covid ward.
Red and white tape separated about a dozen beds in the vast atrium that were occupied by mostly elderly patients receiving IV drips.
About forty patients, most of whom were middle-aged and older, sat on sofas and slept on beds while receiving IV drips, some of whom were coughing.
A medical caretaker said they all had Coronavirus.
Three people lie on beds that are connected to respirators and heart monitoring equipment in the intensive care unit next door.
An elderly man who was coughing and having trouble breathing was brought in on a stretcher.
Around fifty people, including Covid patients, waited in line for triage at the emergency department. One person at the front of the line told AFP they had been waiting for more than an hour.
Another medium-sized hospital in downtown Chongqing's emergency room was also overcrowded, with approximately 30 elderly patients on IV drips crammed between beds and chairs.
Several had pulse oximeters attached to their fingers and were breathing through respirators.
Since the government's sudden decision to lift health restrictions and end mass testing at the beginning of the month, a cleaner and a nurse at the first hospital informed AFP that there have been several deaths per day.
It was unclear whether the virus was to blame for each and every death.