The Chinese people on and off since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic three years ago is again returning as the country grapples with an unidentified pneumonia outbreak that is sickening children and overwhelming hospitals.
In strollers, or carried by their parents, sick children have been filling hospital waiting rooms, hallways, and spilling outside the main gates. They wait for hours hoping for their number to be called on the loudspeaker before the day is over.
Waiting up to 12 hours is not uncommon—if one can get in line at all. After staying past midnight in a hospital hallway teeming with people, a Beijing resident shared a photo while holding a ticket number in the 1800s—the placement in the day’s queue—reminding would-be visitors to bring a stool with them, because “there’s nowhere to sit if you need to get an IV drip.”
From north to south, the spike in children’s respiratory hospitalizations is shutting classrooms and pushing health authorities to issue a flurry of announcements telling teachers and students who feel unwell to stay home.
“Everyone in the class is coughing—you can’t even hear what the teacher is saying,” a man surnamed Chen, recounting what he heard from his school-aged daughter from Beijing.
Just like three years ago, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) appears dismissive of the disease’s risk, telling a concerned World Health Organization that there are no “unusual or new pathogens” or clinical symptoms.
The regime partially attributed the uptick to a mid-October upgrade in a respiratory surveillance mechanism, and asserted that the existing Chinese hospital capacities have been sufficient to handle the situation.
Beijing’s explanation, which the international health agency as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have quoted verbatim, has convinced few in China or abroad.
The acting director of WHO’s department of epidemic and pandemic preparedness and prevention, Maria Van Kerkhove, said in a Nov. 29 press briefing that the organization is “following up with the situation in China” and assessing “the health care capacities around the world” in dealing with these types of new infections.
Sean Lin, microbiologist and former lab director at the viral diseases branch of Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, expressed frustration over the WHO’s reliance on China’s regime for information.
“How can you trust the Chinese government data?” he told The Epoch Times.
Many lawmakers in Washington, especially Republicans, see the same thing happening in China now.
“We have no ability to trust the Chinese,” Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), told The Epoch Times’ sister outlet NTD on Nov. 30, a day after signing a letter demanding that the CDC investigate the outbreak in China.
“They’re not forthcoming, they don’t want to lose face, and as a result, people die.”
Rep. Greg Murphy (R-N.C.), a practicing surgeon, similarly believes “China’s going to do everything possible so that they don’t look like they’re the genesis of another pandemic.”
“I don’t trust anything the Chinese say—not a word,” he told NTD. “You get burned once, you don’t get burned again.”
A Fast Spreading Pathogen
Around this time last year, the regime abruptly abandoned its draconian zero-COVID restrictions after forcing the Chinese population to live for years in an on-again, off-again lockdown with food and other basic needs hanging in the balance.
In the first 20 days of December 2022, an estimated hundreds of millions contracted the virus. The influx of infections and deaths overloaded hospitals and crematoriums.
Children have been particularly hard hit during the current pneumonia outbreak. Major Chinese pediatric hospitals across China have reported receiving up to 10,000 patients each day in recent weeks.
The Tianjin Children’s Hospital hit a daily record of 13,171 patients recently. The hospital’s director, Liu Wei, penned a letter pleading for understanding from the public, emphasizing that the medical workers are also parents, some with their own sick children.
Other health workers from the northeastern megacity confirmed the same pattern is repeating throughout Tianjin if not elsewhere. Going to the doctor at a hospital, for many Chinese, means waiting in the wee hours of the morning in front of their computer screen to secure a placement number, which is limited daily.
“Even when our children get sick, we also have trouble getting a number. We also have to keep refreshing the screen to see if a number becomes available,” one Beichen Hospital staff member. Further north, in Jilin Province, a staff member from the Second Hospital of Jilin University said the hospital was booked for the next seven days.