Shijal ChudasamaDecember 24, 2022

How COVID has agitated little Chinese towns

How COVID has agitated little Chinese towns

Patients are required to travel to larger cities for treatment because intensive care facilities are overcrowded.

Emergency wards in small cities and villages southwest of the capital, Beijing, are overburdened as China struggles with an increase of COVID-19 cases. ICUs are turning away ambulances, sick people's loved ones are looking for available beds, and patients are slouched on benches in hospital hallways and laying on hospital floors due to a scarcity of beds.

After the government loosened coronavirus rules in November and December, the towns and small cities in the central Hebei province's Baoding and Langfang prefectures served as the focal point of one of China's earliest epidemics. The area was silent for weeks as many stayed home due to illness.

How COVID roils small Chinese towns
COVID-19 patients lie on hospital beds in the cordoned-off lobby of the Chongqing No 5 People's Hospital in China's southwestern city of Chongqing. [Noel Celis/AFP]

Now, many people have recovered. Even as the virus spreads to other regions of China, markets are humming, people fill eateries, and motorists honk in gridlocked traffic today. Recently, state media headlines stated that the region is "beginning to resume regular life."

However, conditions in the emergency rooms and crematoriums in central Hebei are far but typical. Many of Hebei's elderly are deteriorating rapidly, despite the fact that the young are returning to work and the wait times at fever clinics are shortening. They are taking over funeral homes and intensive care units, which may be a sign of things to come for the rest of China.

Since restrictions were significantly lifted on December 7, the Chinese government has only reported seven COVID-19 deaths, bringing the country's total death toll to 5,241. Tuesday, a health official claimed that China's official COVID-19 death toll only includes deaths from pneumonia or respiratory failure, a strict definition that leaves out many deaths that the illness would be responsible for in other locations.

Between a million and two million deaths are expected in China in 2019, according to experts, and the World Health Organization issued a warning that Beijing's method of counting will "underestimate the genuine death toll."

In Zhuozhou's Baoding No 2 Hospital, patients clogged the emergency ward hallway on Wednesday. Others were using respirators to help them breathe. When the physicians informed one woman that a loved one had passed away, she sobbed.

Furnaces are burning overtime at the Zhuozhou cremation as staff members struggle to deal with an increase in fatalities over the previous week, according to a worker quoted by The Associated Press news agency. The number of bodies burned daily has increased from three to four before COVID-19 restrictions were removed, according to a funeral home employee, to 20 to 30.

According to the 82-year-old woman's grandson Liang, the body of one 82-year-old woman was transported from Beijing, a two-hour drive away, to a crematorium in Gaobeidian, roughly 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of Zhuozhou.

Due to the sensitivity of the issue, Liang only revealed his last name when he said, "They said we'd have to wait for 10 days."

Liang’s grandmother had been unvaccinated, Liang added, when she came down with coronavirus symptoms, and had spent her final days hooked to a respirator in a Beijing ICU.

As nurses sprayed disinfection, the Baigou New Area Aerospace Hospital was calm and organized, with empty beds and short lines. COVID- According to personnel, 19 patients are isolated from other patients to avoid cross-contamination. However, they also noted that due to a lack of medical equipment, significant cases are being sent to hospitals in larger cities.

The shortage of ICU space in Baigou, which has roughly 60,000 inhabitants, is a widespread issue. Of China's 1.4 billion population, roughly 500 million live in villages and towns, where medical facilities, according to experts, lag significantly behind those of major cities like Beijing and Shanghai. There may be no ICU beds in some counties.

Patients in critical condition are consequently compelled to go to larger cities for treatment.

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