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Outbreak at Shanghai Hospital Exposes Covid’s Risks to China’s Seniors

A #COVID19 outbreak is ravaging a hospital for older adults in Shanghai, China.

Workers said that deaths are increasing & resources are dwindling.

A coronavirus outbreak is ravaging a hospital in Shanghai for older adults, underscoring the difficulties officials have had in containing infections even as the city imposed a 10-day staggered lockdown. Two orderlies at the Shanghai Donghai Elderly Care Hospital said in interviews that the coronavirus was spreading widely among the mostly older patients in the facility, and that people had died on each of the past three days. The two, who declined to be named for fear of losing their jobs, said that on a recent night they had been asked to carry a body into a room where other bodies were being stored. The two said they did not know how the people had died, but said that many had been infected with Covid, and that there was a shortage of tests and other resources. The New York Times also spoke with a Shanghai resident, Chen Jielei, who said her 81-year-old mother tested positive for Covid-19 in the hospital. The situation points to an unfolding health care crisis in China’s largest city, and exposes a vulnerable group in the country’s otherwise highly effective Covid-19 strategy: the elderly. China’s efforts to eliminate infections with lockdowns, travel restrictions, mass testing and surveillance had largely kept Covid out since it first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan two years ago. But with the rise of the highly transmissible Omicron variant, China has in recent months struggled to quash outbreaks. Lockdowns were imposed in major cities like Xi’an and Shenzhen, as well as the entire northern province of Jilin. In Shanghai, officials have argued the city plays too crucial an economic role to be completely closed down. But the surge in cases prompted officials last week to impose a staggered shutdown. First the eastern and then the western halves of the city were to close businesses, suspend public transportation and confine residents in their buildings so that mass testing could be carried out. The rollout has been messy. Grocery store shelves have been emptied as residents went on panic buying sprees. People with life-threatening conditions posted calls for help online when they could not get to hospitals for help. Quarantine facilities and hospitals have overflowed with people who tested positive, who must be confined in such facilities even if asymptomatic. But the crisis in the Donghai hospital exposes a deeper challenge: how to protect older Chinese, who are already more vulnerable to the virus, particularly if they live in facilities besieged by it. Making matters worse, just over half of people 80 and older have had two shots, and less than 20 percent of people in that age group have received a booster, Zeng Yixin, a vice minister of the National Health Commission, said recently. Officials have pointed to the outbreak in Hong Kong, where deaths spiked in recent weeks, particularly among unvaccinated older adults, as a sign of concern. It is not clear how many people have died at the Donghai hospital, and whether the deaths are directly linked to the Covid outbreak there, which was previously reported by The Wall Street Journal. A woman who picked up the phone at the Donghai Elderly Care Hospital confirmed an outbreak of Covid there, but declined to say how many cases there were or to provide other details. Bloggers shared photos and descriptions of the outbreak in the Donghai facility on Chinese social media, but it went unreported by official Chinese media. Shanghai has not yet officially reported any deaths from Covid. Calls to the Shanghai Municipal Center for Disease Control and Prevention went unanswered on Friday. The two orderlies, who shared proof of their work at the facility, said they had been recruited recently to work at the hospital without being told about the situation. They were shocked to find when they arrived that they would be working in a ward filled with patients who had Covid. They said that because they had come into contact with sick patients, they were being confined to the hospital and could not leave. One night, around 3 a.m., they were woken up by hospital staff and given a duty they said they were not hired to perform: carrying a body away to a makeshift morgue. They said that five of them took the body to a room where a large number of bodies were being stored. Read more at: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/01/world/asia/china-covid-shanghai.html



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