Infections increase. More cities quarantined in Hubei. Authorities advise people to stay at home for treatment. Hospital facilities are overcrowded and lack medicine and masks. A new hospital center for infectious diseases is being built quickly in Wuhan. The party secretary general sends greetings to the nation, Hong Kong and Macao, but no word on the epidemic.
Beijing (AsiaNews) - The coronavirus that is spreading in China has caused the death of 26 people and infected 876 others: these are the official statistics as of midday today January 24th. In Wuhan, the epicenter of the epidemic, hospitals ask for help because medicines and health supplies are exhausted: the reserve of protective glasses, health masks and hygienic suits will last for only a few more days.
But hospitals have received orders to delete this information online, giving the impression that the administration of the crisis by the government is paralyzed. There is also evidence that doctors and nurses - at least 15 – caring for the ill, have been infected with the virus.
Wuhan's health facilities have reached maximum capcity. Testimonials and online videos show thousands of people gathered in hospital corridors in long queues awaiting treatment (video 1). The Caixin magazine says that for Wuhan doctors, the estimate of the infected reaches at least the number of 6 thousand, much higher than the official statistics. Several virologist experts believe that the current epidemic will be even more severe - at least 10 times – than Sars (2002-2003).
Ms. Liu recently visited Wuhan, and describes her experience of undergoing medical tests in the hospital of Zhengzhou, her hometown. Liu says only those who have difficulty breathing or are in shock are quarantined. Liu says the test for the coronavirus reaction must be "approved by the leaders" and that the release of the test results must be "verified by the leaders".
In this way the process until the declaration of the disease lasts at least a few days. Liu also claims that the tests are not carried out on patients, unless they are found infected. According to Liu, the mechanism is such as to allow a long incubation period of the virus, accelerating the spread of the disease.
Videos of crowds seeking treatment and even people who die while they are in line waiting for a diagnosis are being posted online (video 2). Doctors complain about the lack of protection and stressful work patterns, with the government's apparent immobility in solving problems.
In Wuhan's pharmacies, anti-virus medicines are exhausted; even sanitary masks and disinfectants were all sold. Even the isolation of the city creates problems of supply and organization. Due to the fact that you cannot enter or leave the city, the prices of vegetables have risen and long lines of cars queuing await their turn at the petrol service stations.
With Wuhan, 12 other cities in Hubei have been quarantined and all public transport is suspended. Even tighter isolation measures have been taken for Wuhan: the tunnels under the Yangtze River will be closed and checkpoints and inspection posts have been installed near the bridges.
To try to resolve the hospital crisis in the city, district, a new hospital for infectious diseases is being built quickly in the western area of Wuhan, Caidian and will have the capacity to accommodate a thousand patients. Workers have been offered three times their average wage to speed up construction. The new hospital will be built entirely with prefabricated panels. Meanwhile, doctors from other provinces are being sent to Wuhan.
Faced with the threat of an increasingly widespread epidemic, the authorities have canceled all the large-scale celebrations scheduled for the New Year, which begins tomorrow. The imperial palace, an obligatory tourist destination, has been closed in Beijing; festivals and fairs in the temples - with visits on the occasion of the New Year - have been canceled; Masses in Catholic churches should also be canceled.
In the official media, articles focus on the activities of the top Party leaders; news of the epidemic exalts the courage of doctors and nurses, but there is no mention of the difficulties of medical personnel and hospitals.
Yesterday the Central Party Committee and the State Council met to celebrate the New Year and to exchange greetings. Secretary General Xi Jinping gave a speech greeting the nation and wishing prosperity and stability in Hong Kong and Macao (where coronavirus infections have been recorded). But the most pressing problem, the epidemic that is hitting China, was not even mentioned