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Videos show severity of China’s covid outbreak

A video of Tianjin Medical University General Hospital in Tianjin, China, posted on December 20 shows a crowd. (Video: @用户/Douyin)


Emergency departments overwhelmed with patients sleeping in hallways until evaluations are completed or taken to a hospital room. At least one hospital was absent because half of its doctors and nurses tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

These and other disturbing scenes at Chinese medical facilities have been captured in videos and photos posted on social media over the past two weeks. They offer a glimpse of the toll the gigantic coronavirus wave is taking, undermining Beijing’s claims that the government is in control.

The full extent of the outbreak is unknown. The sudden easing of coronavirus restrictions in early December came at a time when infections were already surging. Authorities quickly stopped reporting asymptomatic cases, forcing the public to turn to social media for what was happening.

To better assess the impact of the current wave, which is projected to claim more than 1 million lives by 2023, The Washington Post reported on popular Chinese websites such as Weibo and Douyin. We tracked hundreds of posts on the platform and reviewed reposted material on Twitter and elsewhere. site. The Post’s preliminary analysis found evidence of overwhelmed health facilities in major cities, especially those along the populous East Coast.

Given China’s heavy censorship, the content is just a snapshot of what’s happening across the country. indicates that

China’s low coronavirus death toll has been criticized as unbelievable

Most at risk: Older people

Filmed at Tianjin Medical University Hospital and posted on Douyin, a Chinese video platform owned by TikTok’s parent company ByteDance, videos like this reveal the current burden on medical facilities. Many of the patients are elderly and can be seen resting on stretchers or cots in crowded lobbies, near elevators and other public areas. Family members seem to be nearby — being close certainly helps spread the virus.

A video posted on social media on Dec. 20 — said to have been shot the day before — shows visibly ill patients crowding the Tianjin Medical University General Hospital. (Video: @用户/Douyin)

“It is clear [in] In these major cities, health systems have been overwhelmed, especially by the surge in cases. [among] Yanzhong Huang, Senior Fellow for Global Health at the Council on Foreign Relations, who reviewed the footage for the post, said: In China, only about 40% of people over the age of 80 have received a coronavirus booster.

This viral tsunami hit northern cities the fastest and hardest. Beijing health officials said on Dec. 11 that 22,000 people were visiting fever clinics each day, 16 times more than the previous week.

A video posted to Douyin on Wednesday shows many elderly patients seeking care at Beijing Tsinghua Changgu Hospital. “Emergency rooms are very crowded,” wrote the woman, who said she had brought her mother in for treatment the day before. “Wherever I went, everywhere I looked, there were young seniors accompanying older seniors,” the woman noted. “Everyone, please take care of the elderly around you.”

A video posted on social media on Dec. 21 shows congestion at Beijing’s Tsinghua Changgu Hospital. (Video: @Mrs树树/Douyin)

Similar outbreaks are occurring in the country’s most populous cities. On Wednesday, the Shanghai Neurological Medical Center posted and quickly removed his WeChat article estimating that 7 million residents have already been infected and half of its 25 million residents will be infected by the end of this week. .

Shanghai’s draconian lockdown in March and April traumatized locals and shocked the entire country. Determined to avoid a recurrence of acutely ill people stuck at home without medical care, local authorities are directing patients to the city’s 2,600 designated fever clinics.

State media reported Friday that the emergency department at Zhongshan Hospital, China’s most prominent hospital, was handling about 1,000 patients a day, up from 700 in the same period last year to 800.

Inside the ER, a video taken Wednesday by journalists for The Post shows patients crammed into corridors one after another. Gurneys, cribs and even folding chairs are probably things you brought from home. Relatives squatted on their sides, leaving barely enough space for others to walk.

A video taken inside Shanghai’s Zhongshan Hospital on Dec. 21 shows hallways crammed with mostly elderly patients. (Video: Lisa Mobius/Washington Post)

Videos and social media posts also suggest that some children’s homes are unusually busy, especially infants, despite assurances by authorities that they are at lower risk than other vulnerable groups. Being a parent with a young baby. The death of her 2-year-old daughter from coronavirus fever-induced encephalitis was widely discussed online, but authorities have not publicly confirmed a link.

Justin Ressler, a professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina, says young people’s illnesses can be exacerbated by other respiratory viruses, including a combination of influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, which are hitting U.S. children hard. .

“There are few places in the world where a massive epidemic of severe respiratory infections among children does not seriously strain the healthcare system,” said Ressler, who also reviewed footage that is part of the Post’s analysis. Did.

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

A video posted on social media on December 21 shows a family waiting with a small child at a recently constructed hospital in the southern city of Guangzhou. (Video: @明天会更好/Douyin)

Hospitals with few doctors and nurses

The National Health Board recently recommended that hospitals rehire retired health workers to deal with an explosion of COVID-19 infections.

About 1,000 staff have been recalled to front-line positions in Guangzhou, according to local reports. Doctors and nurses are being redeployed from small cities to Beijing, and authorities have converted a sports stadium formerly used as a centralized quarantine center into a temporary emergency ward.

Nanjing Drum Tower Hospital in Nanjing, about 200 kilometers west of Shanghai, reported half of its doctors and more nurses were on sick leave due to the novel coronavirus. A visitor posted a video of an empty entrance foyer with signs indicating that most of the counters are temporarily closed.

A video posted on social media on Dec. 21 shows hallways empty and counters closed at Nanjing Drum Tower Hospital as a staff member tested positive for the novel coronavirus. . (Video: @Yunshan Shiyan/Douyin)

Pressure continues to build. In eastern China, the Second Affiliated Hospital of Wenzhou Medical University said in a statement that one of his pharmacists passed out from fatigue at 4 a.m. on duty.

A video posted on Douyin on December 21 shows a crowd of people inside the Second Affiliated Hospital of Wenzhou Medical University in Wenzhou, China. (Video: @seizero/Douyin)

Medical resource triage has attempted for decades to prevent drugs, equipment and medical specialists from concentrating solely in large hospitals in major cities, with limited success. . High-profile facilities are theoretically best equipped to handle critical cases, but are often overrun and staff exhausted.

In Shenzhen, China’s third most populous city, many desperately want to see a doctor. One video of him posted on Douyin on Dec. 19 shows a line stretching around a block at Longhua People’s Hospital. According to videos and photos of the scene confirmed by the patient and confirmed by the Post, the waiting time extended to more than half a day.

A video posted on social media on Dec. 19 shows a queue circling a block outside Shenzhen’s Longhua People’s Hospital. (Video: @费费/Douyin)

When 28-year-old Zhou Zedong arrived late the next night, he was warned of a 20-hour wait. My number was not called when I got back and I realized I had to redo the process.

“It pisses me off,” said Zhou, who converted to a traditional Chinese medicine clinic and asked her family to send the medicines that many pharmacies in Shenzhen had sold out. “It’s not the level of healthcare that a top-tier city should have.”

Suddenly “zero negative” country

The government’s conflicting messages are fueling public unrest.For nearly three years, authorities have justified the stringent lockdowns necessary to save every possible life. Anger over the “no coronavirus” policy erupted openly in November, leading to a week of defiant protests in at least a dozen cities.

Chinese lock down, stock up on drugs for fear of new coronavirus wave

Then, almost overnight, everything changed. Necessary tests and centralized quarantines have been abandoned. And as predicted by international health experts, a country with very limited immunity quickly succumbed to the virus. They joke that the new policy is “zero negative”.

Medical student Jonathan Chen, 21, visited the University of Hong Kong’s Shenzhen Hospital on Tuesday after testing positive and experiencing a spike in fever. He waited eight hours to see a doctor.

“I used to hope the government would open up as soon as possible,” Chen said. He is no longer sure it was the smartest move.

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