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Videos show the severity of the covid outbreak in China

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Heavy crowds can be seen in footage from the General Hospital of Tianjin Medical University in Tianjin, China, which was released on December 29. 20. (Video: @用户/Douyin)


Emergency departments are overflowing, with patients sleeping in hallways until they can be assessed or transported to a hospital room. In at least one hospital, half of the doctors and nurses were absent because they had tested positive for covid.

These and other alarming scenes at Chinese medical facilities have been captured in videos and photographs posted on social media over the past two weeks. They offer a huge insight into the tool coronavirus wave is unleashed – and undermines Beijing’s claim that the government is in control.

The full extent of the outbreak is unclear. The government is suddenly easing of coronavirus restrictions early December came when infections were already increasing. Officials soon stopped.reporting asymptomatic cases, leaving the public to rely on social media to figure out what was going on.

To better assess the impact of the current wave — which projections suggest could kill more than a million people in 2023 – The Washington Post tracked hundreds of posts on popular Chinese platforms, including Weibo and Douyin, and reviewed material that was reposted on Twitter and other sites. The Post’s preliminary analysis found evidence of overwhelmed healthcare facilities in major cities, particularly along the country’s heavily populated east coast.

Given China’s strict censorship, the content is just a snapshot of what’s happening across the country. But it shows that many communities are struggling to cope with the massive number of covid-infected patients.

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Most at risk: the elderly

Videos like this, taken at Tianjin Medical University Hospital and posted on Douyin – a Chinese video platform owned by TikTok parent company ByteDance – reveal the current strain on medical facilities. Patients, many of them elderly, are seen resting on stretchers or cots in crowded lobbies or near elevators and other public spaces. Family members seem to be hovering nearby – some closeness to help spread the virus.

A video posted on social media on December 2. 20 – described as taken the day before – shows visibly ill patients crowded into the General Hospital of Tianjin Medical University. (Video: @用户/Douyin)

It’s clear that [in] these major cities, the health system is overwhelmed due to the rapid increase in cases, especially [among] the elderly,” said Yanzhong Huang, senior global health researcher at the Council on Foreign Relations, who reviewed the images for The Post. Only about 40% of people aged 80 and over in China have received coronavirus amplifier shot.

This viral tsunami is hitting the fastest and hardest northern cities. Beijing health authorities said Dec. 2. 11 that 22,000 people visited fever clinics daily, 16 times more than the previous week.

A video posted to Douyin on Wednesday shows many elderly patients seeking care at Beijing’s Tsinghua Changgung Hospital. “The emergency room is extremely crowded,” wrote one woman who said she had brought her mother in for care a day earlier. “Everywhere I went, everywhere I looked, there were younger seniors accompanying those who were even older,” the woman noted. “Everyone please take care of the elderly around you.”

A video posted on social media on December 2. 21 shows overcrowded conditions at Tsinghua Changgung Hospital in Beijing. (Video: @Mrs树树/Douyin)

The country’s most populous city is suffering a similar outbreak. On Wednesday, the Shanghai Neuromedical Center published – then quickly deleted – a WeChat article estimating that 7 million residents were already infected and that half of the city’s 25 million residents would be infected by the end of this week. .

The draconian containment of Shanghai in March and April traumatized residents and shocked the rest of the country. The city government, determined to avoid a repeat of seriously ill people stuck at home without medical attention, is directing patients to 2,600 designated fever clinics across the city.

State media reported on Friday that the emergency department at Zhongshan Hospital, one of China’s largest, was treating about 1,000 patients a day, down from 700 to 800 at the same time last year.

Inside the ER, video taken by a Post reporter on Wednesday shows patients packed in hallway after hallway – the Stretchers, beds and even folding chairs were probably brought from home. Relatives squatted beside them, leaving barely enough room for others to walk.

Video taken inside Zhongshan Hospital in Shanghai on December 11. 21 shows hallways filled with mostly elderly patients. (Video: Lisa Movieus/The Washington Post)

Videos and social media posts also suggest some children’s facilities are unusually busy, particularly with parents bringing in young babies despite assurances from authorities that infants are less at risk than other vulnerable groups. The announcement of a popular video blogger on December 31. 20 that sound A 2-year-old girl who died of encephalitis caused by coronavirus fever has been widely discussed online, although authorities have never publicly confirmed any link.

Illness in young people could be exacerbated by other respiratory viruses, including the combination of influenza and RSV that struck children in the United Stateshardnoted Justin Lessler, professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina.

“There are few, if any, places in the world where the healthcare system would not be severely strained by a large outbreak of severe respiratory infections in children,” said Lessler, who also reviewed the images that were part of the Post’s analysis.

A video posted by a father in the southern city of Guangzhou shows tired family members waiting with their little ones in the hallways of the Guangzhou Women’s and Children’s Medical Center. The man explained that he had been there for 10 hours.

Video posted on social media on December 2. 21 shows families waiting with young children at a newly built hospital in the southern city of Guangzhou. (Video: @明天会更好/Douyin)

Hospitals with too few doctors and nurses

The National Health Commission recently advised hospitals to rehire retired healthcare workers to help cope with the explosive number of covid cases – as well as to replace doctors and nurses who have themselves been infected .

Nearly 1,000 staff have been recalled to frontline positions in Guangzhou, according to local reports. Doctors and nurses are being redeployed from small towns to Beijing, where authorities have converted sports stadiums previously used as centralized quarantine centers to serve as temporary emergency services.

In Nanjing, about 300 km west of Shanghai, the Nanjing Drum Tower Hospital reported that half of its doctors and even more nurses were on sick leave due to covid. Visitors posted videos of an empty lobby with signs saying most counters were temporarily closed.

Video posted on social media on December 2. 21 shows empty hallways and closed counters at Nanjing Drum Tower Hospital because staff tested positive for covid. (Video: @雲山石岩/Douyin)

The pressures continue to mount. In eastern China, the second affiliated hospital of Wenzhou Medical University said in a statement that one of his pharmacists passed out from fatigue while working at 4 a.m. The Post verified three videos showing people crammed into common areas of the hospital.

Video posted on Douyin on December 2. 21 shows a large number of people inside the Second Affiliated Hospital of Wenzhou Medical University in Wenzhou, China. (Video: @清零/Douyin)

Sorting medical resources That will be a challenge in a country that for decades has tried, with limited success, to keep medicine, equipment and medical professionals from being concentrated only in big hospitals in big cities. Although well-known facilities are in theory better equipped to deal with critical cases, they often end up being overwhelmed and their staff exhausted.

In Shenzhen, China’s third most populous city, many people are desperate to see a doctor. A video posted on Douyin on December 2. 19 shows a line stretching around the block of Longhua People’s Hospital. Wait times have been stretched to more than half a day, according to videos and images of the scene confirmed by patients and verified by The Post.

Video posted on social media on December 2. 19 shows a line stretching around the block outside Longhua People’s Hospital in Shenzhen. (Video: @费费/Douyin)

When Zhou Zedong, 28, arrived late the next evening, he was warned of a 20-hour wait. Shortly before midnight, he returned home intending to return the next morning, only to find on his return that he had missed the call to his number and would have to start the process over.

“It makes me angry,” said Zhou, who headed to a traditional Chinese medicine clinic and asked family members to send medicine that was sold out at many pharmacies in Shenzhen. “This is not the level of medical care a first-tier city should have.”

As a result, a country of “negative zero”

Mixed messages from the government have intensified public unease. For nearly three years, authorities have justified harsh lockdowns as necessary to save all possible lives. Anger over ‘zero covid’ policies erupted publicly in November with a week of provocative protests in at least a dozen cities.

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Then, almost overnight, everything amended. Required testing and centralized quarantine have been dropped. And just as international health experts predicted, a country with very limited immunity quickly succumbed to the virus. Some Chinese people joke that the government’s new policy is “zero negative” because everyone is infected.

Jonathan Chen, 21, a medical student, checked himself into Shenzhen University of Hong Kong Hospital on Tuesday after testing positive and developing a fever. He waited eight hours to see a doctor and now wonders if ‘covid zero’ should have been phased out.

“I used to hope that the government would open as soon as possible,” Chen said. He’s not sure that was the smartest decision anymore.

Meg Kelly in Washington, Pei-Lin Wu in Taipei and Lisa Movius in Shanghai contributed to this report.

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