Renewed lockdown measures in parts of three northeastern provinces of China in mid-May underscore the difficulty in predicting how COVID-19 will affect daily life and business in China, including ophthalmology.
China took drastic actions to curtail the first wave of infections. Elective health procedures were halted for three to eight weeks, depending on the area. Some eye hospitals were converted to fever hospitals; others were temporarily closed; and still others provided emergency care only, typically for retinal detachment, acute angle closure glaucoma, and ocular trauma.
Business rebounded after eye hospitals reopened, but not to pre-pandemic levels. Outpatient flows reached about 50 percent of normal in early May, according to many reports, but the recovery in cataract surgery varied, reaching 20 to 50 percent of normal depending on the site.
Locally, flare-ups of COVID-19 infections that prompt local re-impositions of restrictions on business and personal activities are continuing—and are likely to continue throughout the year. Such local restrictions will affect the national aggregate number of elective ophthalmic procedures performed.
New COVID-19-driven national trends bear some of the responsibility for the incomplete recovery. Social distancing requirements reduce the capacity of waiting rooms and curtail the ability to accept walk-in patients. Enhanced cleaning and hygiene procedures between patients reduce the capacity of operating theaters, likely reducing the capacity to perform cataract surgeries, for example.
The effects of those changes on the ability to serve patients may be obscured by the lack of patients until people return to eye hospitals in large numbers. Upon the return to the old levels of demand for eye care services, however, the pace of cataract surgeries at many hospitals may be slower and the use of portable diagnostic devices higher.
Many eye hospitals and laser vision centers are banking on an upsurge in refractive surgery. The widespread use of face masks and face shields or goggles made working with fogged glasses a common problem. Refractive surgeons in China hurried to advertise their solution to the problem as soon as they were able to resume their practices.
In the short term, the fall in demand for elective ophthalmic procedures has extended past the end of the COVID-19 lockdown as fear of infection lingers and layoffs and business closures hit people’s pocketbooks.
Market Scope’s “2020 China Ophthalmic Market Report” adopts the optimistic assumption that there will be neither a second large wave of infection nor a second national lockdown in China in 2020, but rather there will be a rapid return to 2019 levels of activity by 2021. The possibility of a second wave in 2020 that lasts as long as the first is considered an extended crisis.
Market Scope estimates the total ophthalmic market in China in 2020 at $2.7 billion and forecasts that rapid growth post-COVID-19 will produce a $4.9 billion market in 2025.
The new “2020 China Ophthalmic Market Report” features updated forecasts that reflect the effect of COVID-19 on the ophthalmic market. An appendix to the report examines how the market will be affected by a worse case where a second wave of infection cancels elective procedures for as long as the first wave did.
For more information, “2020 China Ophthalmic Market Report”