DYING IN HALLWAYS: Heartbreaking scenes in Chinese hospitals
Thursday - 30/01/2020 19:25
Heartbreaking video from the epicentre of China’s coronavirus outbreak shows people lying on makeshift beds in hallways as hospitals strain under the weight of the crisis.
A Chinese journalist has posted a heartbreaking video showing hospitals in Wuhan overflowing with patients, some lying on waiting room seats and others hooked up to oxygen tanks in hallways.
At one point in the video Chen Qiushi — whose name and image have been censored on Chinese social media platforms — films a dead patient sitting in a wheelchair, as a relative stands behind him holding his head up.
“He passed away,” she says. “They are going to put him in the morgue. He was gravely ill but the car arrived too late.”
Mr Chen describes standing in line with “suspected” coronavirus patients at hospitals, where doctors complain of having only a few hundred testing kits. “Being a ‘suspected’ case is psychological torture,” he says.
“If you are a doctor and tens of thousands of patients ask you for test kits and you only have a few hundred, how do you distribute them?”
Mr Chen says many patients give up and go home after visiting “five or six” hospitals. “Because they had to stand line for a long time to get diagnosed,” he says.
“Only when they are diagnosed can they be allowed inside the hospital. All of the hospitals I went to told me there weren’t enough beds.”
Mr Chen ends the video describing how he is being investigated by Chinese authorities. “I am scared,” he says. “I have the virus in front of me. Behind me is China’s law enforcement.”
Patients, medical staff and experts interviewed by CNN also spoke about the delays testing for the virus — suggesting the actual infection rate is far higher than reported — and the health system struggling to cope with the crisis.
Shi Muying, who flew back from the UK to spend Lunar New Year with her terminally ill mother, described how, a few days before Wuhan was placed on lockdown, men in hazmat suits barged into her mother’s ward and demanded they move to another floor within 30 minutes.
“They gave no reasoning, just the order,” she told CNN.
“It was only when I asked the hospital staff, and they told me that all patients on this floor — like my mum, they are all cancer patients — must be evacuated to make space for handling novel coronavirus.”
Meanwhile, Chinese manufacturer Shanghai ZJ Bio-Tech insisted this week it can produce enough testing kits to meet demand — 8000 boxes per day, with enough material in stock to make two million kits, according to CNN.
Ms Shi, who is self-quarantined at home, and her father both believe they have the virus but are too afraid to visit her mother for fear of infecting her. Her father was admitted on Thursday but Ms Shi said she was told by a hospital worker they didn’t have space for her as well.
She said when she asked the worker what kind of patient would be admitted, they responded, “We will admit (them) if they’re dying.”
Meanwhile, satellite imagery from Planet Labs Inc. has highlighted the impact of the outbreak and lockdown on the usually bustling metropolis of 11 million people.
Before-and-after images taken on January 12 and January 28 of the Wuchang Railway Station and the Yingwuzhou Yangtze River Bridge show residential streets and motorways nearly deserted and shipping activity halted.
DEATH TOLL RISES
The number of confirmed deaths from China’s coronavirus outbreak has risen to at least 212 after the worst-hit Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, reported 42 new fatalities on Friday.
It came after more countries reported infections from a worrisome new virus, including some spread locally, as foreign evacuees from the Hubei region returned home to medical tests and even isolation.
Russia announced it was closing its 4180km border with China, joining Mongolia and North Korea in barring crossings to guard against a new viral outbreak.
It had been de facto closed because of the Lunar New Year holiday, but Russian authorities said the closure would be extended until March 1.
Train traffic between the countries was halted except for one train connecting Moscow and Beijing, but air traffic between the two countries continued, at least for now.
Russia has not confirmed any cases of the virus.
On Thursday, France said a doctor who was in contact with a patient with the new virus later became infected himself. The doctor is now being treated in an isolated room at a Paris hospital.
Outbreak specialists worry that the spread of new viruses from patients to health workers can signal the virus is becoming adapted to human transmission.
The US and South Korea also confirmed cases of person-to-person spread of the virus.
The man in the US is married to a 60-year-old Chicago woman who got sick from the virus after she returned from a trip to Wuhan, the Chinese city that is the epicentre of the outbreak.
There have been cases reported of the infectious virus spreading to others in a household or workplace in China and elsewhere.
The case in South Korea was a 56-year-old man who had contact with a patient who was diagnosed with the new virus earlier.
Human-to-human spread of the virus outside China has also occurred in Germany, Japan, Canada and Vietnam, and was a major reason the World Health Organisation convened its committee of experts Thursday where it declared the outbreak a global emergency.
The committee last week had advised the UN health agency it was too early to make that pronouncement.
The new virus has now infected more people in China than were sickened there during the 2002-2003 outbreak of SARS, a cousin of the new virus.
The latest figures show a total of 9171 confirmed cases worldwide. There are now 83 cases in 18 countries, according to the WHO.
A second Japanese flight carrying 210 evacuees landed in Tokyo. Reports said nine of those aboard the flight showed signs of cough and fever.
Three of Japan’s confirmed cases were among a group of evacuees who had returned on a government-chartered flight the previous day.
A flight was also en route to China to bring back 350 Europeans. The US said additional flights were planned for early next week after it evacuated 195 Americans from Wuhan on Wednesday.
They are being tested and monitored at a Southern California military base.
South Korea, Britain, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore and other countries were also trying to get their citizens out. Taiwan, the self-governing republic China considers its own territory, has also asked to be able to repatriate its passport holders from Wuhan, but it was awaiting approval from Beijing.
Israel’s El Al, Spain’s Iberia, Scandinavian Airlines, Egypt Air and Korean Air joined the growing list of airlines suspending or reducing service to China.
In South Korea, residents in two cities where quarantine facilities were being prepared threw eggs and water bottles at government officials to protest plans to isolate in their neighbourhoods 700 South Koreans the government plans to evacuate from China.
RICE FOR 15 DAYS
Amid reports of shortages in food and daily necessities in hotspot areas, Chinese authorities are “stepping up efforts to ensure continuous supply and stable prices”, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
It cited Ministry of Commerce data showing current reserves in Wuhan can ensure a secure supply of rice and cooking oil for more than 15 days, pork and eggs for more than 10 days and vegetables for about five days.
China’s highly developed online shopping and home delivery businesses were important in ensuring those confined to home by choice or by order could get food and other essentials.
China extended its Lunar New Year holiday to Sunday to try to keep people home, but the wave of returning travellers could potentially cause the virus to spread further.
Transport ministry spokesman Wu Chungeng outlined a series of rigorous temperature checks and other “severe measures” to detect possibly infectious passengers.
Transport restrictions such as those isolating Wuhan and suspending inter-provincial bus services would remain in place, Mr Wu said. “It’s definitely very challenging, but we’re confident we can exert effective control,” Mr Wu told reporters at the briefing.
The WHO emergencies chief, Michael Ryan, speaking in Geneva Wednesday after returning from Beijing, said China was taking “extraordinary measures in the face of an extraordinary challenge” posed by the outbreak.
To date, about 99 per cent of the cases are in China. Ryan estimated the death rate of the new virus at 2 per cent, but said the figure was very preliminary.
With fluctuating numbers of cases and deaths, scientists are only able to produce a rough estimate of the fatality rate and it’s likely many milder cases of the virus are being missed.
In comparison, the SARS virus killed about 10 per cent of people who caught it. The new virus is from the coronavirus family, which includes those that can cause the common cold as well as more serious illnesses such as SARS and MERS.
Chinese authorities have demanded anyone who travelled from or through Wuhan report to health authorities and self-quarantine themselves for 14 days, the maximum incubation period during which patients can be infectious even if they don’t show symptoms.
China has been largely praised for a swift and effective response to the outbreak, although questions have been raised about the police suppression of what were early on considered mere rumours — a reflection of the one-party Communist state’s determination to maintain a monopoly on information despite smart phones and social media.
That stands in stark contrast to the initial response to SARS, when medical reports were hidden as state secrets. The delayed response was blamed for allowing the disease to spread worldwide, killing around 800 people.