China is calling on its armed forces to reinforce exhausted health workers and apply new and strict quarantine measures imposed on the epicenter of the Covid-19 virus outbreak when a seventh medical worker dies from the disease.
He is the seventh health worker to die among the more than 1,700 doctors and nurses who have become ill.
The Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said that Liu had made “important contributions in the fight and control work” of the virus.
During that process, “unfortunately he became infected and died at 10:54 on Tuesday at the age of 51 after all efforts to save him failed,” the commission said.
It occurs when China cautiously observes a reduction in the number of new daily cases and deaths, along with a study that shows that most people who contracted the virus experienced only mild symptoms.
The president of the Communist Party leader, Xi Jinping, has praised the hospital staff, calling the heroes of Hubei Province. But, he says that China must now mobilize a “people’s war” against the outbreak.
The Chinese leader is deploying thousands of troops to reinforce a medical system that cracks under tension despite repeated claims that the outbreak is under control.
Lieutenant General of the People’s Liberation Army, Chen Wei, an expert in biological warfare, was sent to Wuhan at the end of January. He has experience in the fight against SARS in 2003. And he brought with him a team of experts from the China Biohazard Prevention and Control Program.
Since then, about 4000 doctors, nurses and army-trained assistants have been ordered to support relief efforts, including the operation of new emergency hospitals.
Over the weekend, General Chen joined President Xi’s protégé, Chen Yixin. The security specialist of the Communist Party has been assigned the responsibility of containing the outbreak in Hubei province.
Among its first acts was the isolation of some 2000 rural villages. No one is allowed to enter or leave the cities, which have a single heavily defended control point to allow the entry of food, supplies and medical aid.
It is backed by a new force of 2600 additional medical personnel from the People’s Liberation Army (EPL). They are being transported aboard large military transport aircraft stacked with military supplies.
It has not yet been seen exactly how much help doctors will be trained on the battlefield.
But Hubei’s 500,000 health workers are starting to break under pressure. They have been working 24 hours since mid-January in immensely challenging conditions. They have also proven dangerously susceptible to infection.
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The death of Dr. Liu Zhiming was reported on Monday, but he quickly retracted, following a pattern similar to the death of Dr. Wenliang, which caused a great reaction against the government in social networks.
Covid-19’s whistleblower, Dr. Li Wenliang, died at the neighboring Wuhan Central Hospital on February 7. He had been arrested after alerting other doctors in January of what he believed was a new SARS-like infection.
But these are only the two highest profile deaths among Chinese medical workers.
There have been more.
Anecdotal reports suggest that an unusually high number of 500,000 health workers in Hubei provinces have been infected. A doctor at a community clinic in Wuhan told AFP that he and 16 other colleagues showed symptoms similar to the new virus, including lung infections and cough.
A sick nurse told Al Jazeera: “When I entered the hospital, a colleague of mine burst into tears and said that she was so scared and so tired. We already had at least 150 colleagues who confirmed or suspected they were infected. We are all very scared. “
The shortage of masks and protective equipment continues to aggravate the situation. Reportedly, single-use protective equipment is reused until it breaks, it is repaired with adhesive tape and then it is broken without repair. Publications on Chinese social networks reveal that some hospital staff members have resorted to the use of raincoats and garbage bags.
Beijing admitted that, until Tuesday of last week, six health workers had died and another 1700 had the virus. This means that about 3.8 percent of all Covid-19 cases in China are among public health personnel.
No update has been published since then.
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“If we cannot protect those who are literally helping us in the worst possible place during this battle, then what is the use?” a Weibo social media post declared over the weekend.
“This is critical information because health workers are the glue that holds the health system together and the response to the outbreak,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus over the weekend.
Any illness that kills trained and well-protected health workers is a pandemic nightmare.
In 2003, a single SARS patient infected more than 50 health workers. In the first months of the outbreak, 5 percent of doctors, 4 percent of nurses and 8 percent of health care assistants who treated the disease became infected. About 1 percent of these doctors died.
A Singapore study attributed part of the blame for this to poorly fitted N95 medical masks. And the mistakes made by specialist caregivers on fatigued contributed greatly to the rest.
During the 2014 Ebola outbreak, health workers were between 21 and 32 times more likely to become infected with hemorrhagic disease than the population they worked for.
He decimated the medical staff in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Now, it seems that Covid-19 is killing caregivers.
“1700 is a very large number and shows that HCWs (health workers) have a clear risk of infxn (infection) in other parts of China and around the world,” the director of the Security Center of the Health Johns Hopkins SPH, Tom Inglesby.
Many Chinese medical workers say they are isolating themselves from their families and remain at work for fear of infecting their loved ones. This only increases your fatigue.
“We are practically” naked “in the biohazard environment,” an anonymous doctor told Al Jazeera. “It’s getting better than the first few days, of course, but the necessary medical supplies are still scarce.”
“There are risks, there simply aren’t enough resources,” said an administrator at Wuhan Central Hospital New York Times.
The state media is full of images of doctors and nurses, with impeccable protective equipment, working diligently on submissive patients. The narrative is of heroic sacrifice, the abandonment of families to commit all efforts in a brave fight against the outbreak.
The reality is that Hubei doctors, nurses and assistants are deeply tired after weeks of working 24 hours. While quarantine measures have dispersed the initial queues, the number of Covid-19 cases continues to increase.
Many experts believe that it was this sudden race to the best and largest hospitals in Wuhan that caused such a widespread cross infection rate. Since then, the central government of Beijing has sent 180 medical teams to the city that comprise about 20,000 doctors and nurses.
The PLA deployed its first batch of battlefield doctors on February 13 when 1400 soldiers helped quickly establish new built hospitals. The reinforcements that are currently being implemented will raise that number to approximately 6000.
Meanwhile, the WHO research teams and the US Centers for Disease Control. UU. They are still forbidden to travel to Hubei. Both agencies have been seeking permission to do so since January.
“Obviously, we are quite anxious for the Chinese to accept the offer of the World Health Organization and the United States to help their scientists in this effort,” CDC secretary Alex Azar told NPR News.
China’s strict censors have allowed criticism, only to local provincial leaders, to be filtered on social networks. The heads of the communist party in Hubei Province and Wuhan City have been dismissed. So have the two main health officials in the province.
President Xi has now parachuted his loyalists to replace them.
China must “dare to criticize” those who do not comply with official orders, and breach of duty “will be punished according to discipline and law,” President Xi said in a recent speech.
But the officials he has established generally have experience in security and in the military.
It has not been revealed exactly how much the virus has cost among police and military personnel enforcing quarantine blockades.
But the work of containing the 58 million Chinese who currently have orders to stay in their homes will not be easier as the blockades extend until their second month.
About 50 major cities and four provinces in China have been put under notice of closure.
Households within quarantine areas can only send members outside the home every three days to obtain the necessary supplies. All transportation has been banned.
And then there are the villages of the province of Hubei 2000 at the epicenter of the outbreak.
According to the orders of President Xi’s delegate, police and military forces have blocked each entrance to each community, leaving only a heavily guarded checkpoint to allow food and supplies to enter. It is reported that urban residential compounds will be isolated in a similar manner.
Meanwhile, President Xi said the outbreak is “an important test of China’s system and governance capacity.” Party committees and governments at all levels must firmly obey the centralized leadership of the CPC Central Committee, ”he said in a speech last week.
Jamie Seidel is a freelance writer | @JamieSeidel