Everything I know about China's Covid-19 hospital crisis, I learnt from western media, Global Times & more

China's hospitals reportedly in chaos as many catch Covid-19 at the same time.

Belmont Lay | December 30, 2022, 11:57 AM

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Hospitals in China are coming under intense pressure due to the surge from a new Covid-19 wave unleashed after Beijing decreed that the world's strictest regime of lockdowns and extensive testing be dismantled.

Restrictions were lifted following widespread protests against them, Reuters reported, adding that millions of people a day could be infected, citing the opinion of international health experts.

What the western media reported about China

According to The New York Times on Dec. 28, local governments in China have reported hundreds of thousands of infections a day, with those who are sick crowding hospital hallways.

A day earlier on Dec. 27, NYT published and reported on videos taken in China, which showed the dire situation inside the Tianjin Medical University General Hospital, and reported that the Chinese who usually rely on the already stretched hospitals are crowding out emergency room services, resulting in chaos and other patients being bumped off.

NYT reported that another video from The Associated Press showed a medical worker at a hospital in Zhuozhou, a city near Beijing, asking that a patient be taken elsewhere because the facility was out of oxygen.

The Covid-19 surge is simple to understand.

The Financial Times reported that "Beijing’s abrupt decision to abandon its zero-Covid containment strategy" has allowed the virus to proliferate through China’s largest cities.

What the Asian media reported about China

The NYT coverage follows closely what was already reported days earlier by Hong Kong-based English-language media, South China Morning Post.

SCMP published a video on Dec. 23 showing an 84-year-old man who suffered a stroke ending up dead while waiting to be wheeled into a hospital in Beijing.

An earlier SCMP video on Dec. 21 showed the situation in a hospital in Tianjin, China, where patients were gathered in the hallway sick with what was likely Covid-19, as the premises were packed.

Implications of these news out of China

Regardless of which side of the divide one is on, the footage and reports are clear in their narrative.

Whatever is happening in China now is unprecedented given that strict lockdowns have kept sickness and death at bay, but given that China is loosening up, the virus is spreading throughout the country, and likely to be exported to other countries that are living with endemic Covid-19.

The possibility of new variants of a two-and-a-half-year-old ailment being passed on is high.

The tone used to report on China has been nothing short of shocking.

NYT's written report sounded alarmist, as it read: "The rapid spread of Covid in any country is a concern to health officials around the world because unchecked outbreaks create more opportunities for the virus to mutate into a more contagious or deadlier variant."

"Those fears are particularly acute for China, a country of 1.4 billion people and the place where the virus originated."

NYT's other written report focused on how medical workers are either turning up to work sick with Covid-19, or dropping out of the system entirely.

U.S. system praised, China system slammed

Not one to miss this opportunity, the NYT piece also made it a point to compare the United States and China.

It reported that while 90 per cent of all Chinese were reportedly fully vaccinated as of November, less than 66 percent of those 80 and older were fully vaccinated and only 40 percent had gotten a booster.

In comparison, nearly all Americans 65 and older have gotten a Covid-19 vaccine, although less than 37 per cent have gotten the latest booster.

However, the main difference is that the American system has allowed infections to run rampant earlier -- while implying that the Chinese problem is much bigger owing to the sheer size of China's population.

NYT wrote:

Second, China does not have much natural immunity from past Covid waves. Its lockdown policies have kept the virus out of the country, probably saving lives in the short term. But they have also left its population more vulnerable to the disease than those who have been repeatedly exposed to the virus,

What China-based media reported

Chinese state-aligned media, Xinhua and Global Times have since hit back at the existing coverage of China's domestic health situation.

Xinhua published a commentary, "Western slander can't change China's feat in combating Covid", on Dec. 29, arguing that China has "done right", though some Western media have slandered and quibbled with them.

It argued that China has "recorded the lowest rates of severe cases and mortality in the world".

Xinhua subsequently criticised the Western media's hypocrisy in criticising the two different approaches that China has adopted.

"When China adopted a strict epidemic prevention and control policy, the Western media criticised it. When China optimises its policies, they are also picky. If they can show more rationality and understanding, rather than just nitpicking, will it be more consistent with the moral high ground they have been trying to claim?

A day before, Global Times published a piece on Dec. 28 by a guest contributor, who slammed western governments of only knowing how to blame China -- both in the past and now.

The thesis is easy to follow: When China was carrying out mass lockdowns in the early days of the pandemic, putting people's lives first and the economy second, western countries were ill-equipped to deal with the virus and allowing people to be infected or killed by Covid-19 -- all in the name of achieving herd immunity or some form of viral buffer.

Given their past actions, they do not have the moral authority to slam China for doing what it is doing at the moment.

Worse, now that China has taken the similar step of biting the bullet and opening up by loosening restrictions, western countries are quick to criticise the move and framing it as irresponsible.

The blame is solely on China again, as the country is accused of jeopardising the economies of other countries by endangering their own people and shutting down industries at a crucial time of restarting businesses.

The Global Times piece also hit out at the use of sketchy anecdotal, unverified evidence to shore up reporting.

It wrote:

Correspondents, some of them not even in China, have been relying on what they themselves acknowledge to be unverified anecdotal stories and supposed leaks of information which have not been confirmed.

How will Covid-19 situation play out in China?

With China experimenting with doing away with restrictions for its 1.4 billion people, there is a lot of room to speculate on the outcomes for not only them, but the rest of the world.

Even with 10 per cent of Chinese in China unvaccinated, that would represent 140 million people -- a minority population that easily far outstrips the number of people in other countries.

With the reinstatement of travel between China and the rest of the world, everyone can only wait and watch with bated breath.

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