I have zero medical qualifications but I regularly follow recognised medical/scientific experts. (In the UK, Office of National Statistics, IndependentSAGE, BMJ, Lancet, ZOE Symptom Study – the world’s largest daily study of Covid-19 symptoms from over 1m contributors. In the USA, the CDC, New England Journal of Medicine. World, Worldometer (using data from the Johns Hopkins University). I also have no access to any Chinese data other than that in the public domain.
Prof Devi Sridhar quotation: “Too much fear of overreaction. Better to react and prevent something than to wait and have to treat it later (core tenet of public health). Being blamed later for overreacting comes with the territory. “- Prof Devi Sridhar, Edinburgh University, Professor of Global Health, 26 January 2020
There is lots of discussion about the virus in China, the numbers infected and the numbers of deaths.
I have no independent sources to check or verify them. But I can give a few personal experiences and anecdotes and leave you to reflect on their meaning in the larger context.
Spring of 2020
Way back in March 2020 I knew of 13 friends in England who had mild infections but, even though we live only 300km south of Wuhan we knew of no-one who had been infected, despite Yvonne having family living in Wuhan and other neighbours having friends from there. Subsequently (in 2021) we heard that one colleague of Yvonne’s cousin had a mild infection, and later still, a second cousin’s university lecturer died during that period in Wuhan. Yes I know there is censorship of Chinese social media, but there are still phone calls and people talk. But if the Chinese figures were dramatically wrong, how come I knew far more people (friends) in the UK were infected? And by June 2020 around 20,000 elderly people in UK care homes had succumbed to the virus.
Yes the early days of the pandemic – end of December and first half of January 2020 – exhibited some disasterous responses from the Wuhan authorities – the Opthalmologist Li Wenliang who raised the alarm at the end of December and was ‘silenced’ by the local police and later died (yet due to public pressure on Chinese social media, the Central govt supsequently exhonarated him and bestowed on him the highest civilian honour there is – so social media sometimes is NOT silenced by censorship), and top level Wuhan officials were fired for their ‘hiding’ of the epidemic. By the third week of January, Central govt had taken control of Wuhan. On 23 January the city was sealed off. No trains, no planes, no road traffic (road blocks in and out of the city). Yvonne’s relatives just got out of the city a couple of hours before the lockdown and spend the rest of the Spring Festival here in Changsha, isolating with the whole of their Changsha family since the wife came down with symptoms – yet a 24hr stay in hospital here with testing showed she just had a cold. Yet the whole family were in isolation for a full 14 days.
I’ve read Western reports that infection levels/fatalities in the Spring of 2020 were 10x those stated. There were nearly 5000 deaths during Spring 2020, with by far the vast number in Wuhan. If there had been 10x that number, or 50,000, EVERYBODY would have known about it. Sure the Case Infection Rates (those actually tested positive) were under-reported at 90,000 at that time (as they are in every single country. All the time the ZOE study suggests the infection numbers are at least 50% higher than the UK govt figures – also born out by excess fatalities compared with the previous 5 years -, which are already massaged to exclude those who died more than 28 days after testing AND exclude all who subsequently get re-infected). Infection Fatality Rates (the estimated number of people actually infected) is generally regarded as being +-0.3%. So 0.3% of 5,000 deaths gives actual infections of 1.7million. If the deaths had been 50,000, the infections would have been 17m. Wuhan has a population of 12m. I’m sorry, but the western media figures just DO NOT ADD UP.
Nanjing Delta outbreak July 2021
On 3rd September I went to one of the Changsha’s (10m population) large hospitals to collect the results of my annual Health Check done on 17th August. To enter the hospital there was a mask mandate in place and you needed to show your electronic vaccine passport. The hospital was running normally and the only sign of PPE was universal mask wearing. Regular routine procedures were being carried out (like our annual health checks) and there were no waiting lists. Back in August my checks included a CT scan to check a minor lung condition and we requested extra Vitamin D blood tests to ensure our immune systems could work optimally. The staff, nurses and doctors were all relaxed and none showed any signs of stress.
Can you name a single UK hospital with a similar experience over the last 20 months? And I understand the waiting list for major surgery has grown to over 5m nationally!
October 2021 Delta outbreak
And in the last week (3rd week of October 2021) there’s been a new outbreak. Yesterday (22 October 2021) there were 28 local infections in the whole country (total infections include new arrivals who are ALL in enforced quarantine hotels at their own expense and being tested 5 times). On 18th a local case was tested positive here in Changsha, someone who flew in from another province the day before. The whole of the city has instantly tightened up. EVERYONE is wearing masks. Masks have always been required on the metro system the whole time since January 2020, along with everyone having their temperatures checked. Our singing class has cancelled lessons for at least 2 weeks. Everyone is wearing masks especially in the lifts. That’s in a city of 10m with just one local case of infection. Of course, we won’t know if there are subsequent infections for another week. [As of 21 November Changsha and Hunan has had no subsequent local infections (but with a total of 4 in the province) and just 1 remaining infection (of a new arrival in quarantine) and life here is relaxing again].
And on 17th we went to Suzhou for 3 days. Near Shanghai. On 20th that province (Jiangsu) had 4 cases. That day, the day after we returned, we had 3 phone calls from Suzhou checking on our health, symptoms, and vaccination status (even though we had shown or electronic health cards while there). So they have pretty rigorous contact tracing even without actual infections in their local area.
On 25 October we were tested as part of the whole city of 10m being tested. Abundance of caution.
From all this, I think it’s reasonable to state that China learned some important lessons back in January 2020 which has, so far, stopped outbreaks from taking hold – even though the Nanjing outbreak had spread to 18 provinces (and the October outbreak reaching 21 provinces). BUT IT WAS STOPPED. The economy opened up to around 99% at the end of April 2020 with dramatically dropping infection numbers. And over the last 18 months the economy has grown. Would that really have been possible if the country had been severely infected?
But it’s not over for anyone until it’s over for everyone, especially including the poorest nations and places like Africa. We ALL need to continue to be ‘bloody careful’.
[Update 2021-12-14 There appears to have been a second outbreak in Inner Mongolia, independent of the October one above. This is coming under control but has spawned an outbreak in Zhejiang in the last few days. Daily new infections reported were 80 total including 51 local.
Also, Omicron infections have been detected amongst new arrivals in quarantine, including 7 in Hong Kong and one in Tianjin.
I’m glad all new arrivals are going into quarantine and getting multiple tests. You can’t be too careful.]
Multiple tests in quarantine fail to detect Omicron.
The local govt reported a new case of local infection on 2021-10-18. The patient flew in from Gansu Province the day before.
Public recommendations include:
Wear masks, maintain a safe social distance, do not cause crowding, no large gatherings; wash your hands frequently and have good ventilation. Show your code at medical institutions, airports, stations, shopping malls, hotels, cinemas, scenic spots and other public places. show your health code
Mayor Zheng Jianxin noted that, as Changsha is in a critical period of “preventing epidemic spread, cluster infections, and community transmission”, the whole city should act quickly and decisively to implement various epidemic prevention and control measures. In response to the imported case in Changsha County, the screening and control of close contacts and sub-close contacts should be carried out, to ensure that all of them are properly separated. Measures such as lockdown and disinfection should be fully implemented for epidemic-related sites. Nucleic acid testing should be conducted for all personnel in key regions and industries. All levels of departments in the city should further do a good job in epidemiological investigation and screening in accordance with the unified requirements, and be prepared for emergencies at any time, to ensure swift actions and rapid control of the epidemic once it escalates.
I’m not a fan of war movies, but this week I’ve seen this same movie twice!
First from choice. It’s about the Korean war which I knew nothing about, being too young to have followed the news. But now being in China I thought it might be educational to view this new movie and gain some sort of perspective on their experience and give myself the chance to do a little study of the conflict. My school history lessons concluded with the end of the first world war.
The second time today, was to support my elderly parents-in-law who were invited to a free viewing early this morning. My mother-in-law joined the Chinese People’s Army around that time.
I’m really writing this blog as a means of therapy to settle my soul, which is always disturbed by violent movies, whether they be purely fictional or based around actual events.
This long movie, nearly 3 hours, is set in the autumn of 1950 as the Chinese Peoples Volunteer Army (PVA) entered the fray in September and concludes with the battle of ChangJin Hu, also known as Chosin Lake. Like most movies, it tells the story through the eyes of a commander of the PVA and the build up to the climax which effectively ended the UN land campaign in the north of the country, north of the 38th parallel.
We aren’t told about the north’s campaign south of the 38th which started the whole damn mess months earlier in June. In fact, we’re hardly told anything about the North Korean campaign at all. This is about the conflict’s relevence to Communist China, itself being just a year old. If you get to see the movie, pay close attention to the dialogue (in sub-titles) in the first 10-15 minutes. This gives a brief but comprehendable reasoning for the Chinese participation.
While it took months for the PVA to reach Changjin Hu, the movie feels like one long battle. The Chinese forces on foot pitted against the enormously experienced and well equipped American troops. No mention of British or forces from other nations making up the UN campaign. Understandable since this war is known in China as the American War of Aggression.
And we’re not told much more about the remaining 2.5 years of the war or even the Dunkirk-like evacuation of American troops from Chosin Lake etc.
Taking a grand overview, it does leave me with a feeling of the futility of war and the hypocracy of all of the participants. At the start, the North invades the South to unify the country. Months late, the UN forces cross the 38th in order to unify the country!!! And it all ends with a stale-mate and cessation of hostilities but no peace agreement.
And reading more about the war emphasises the horrific level of casualties involved. Wikipedia opens its section on casualties thus: “Approximately 3 million people died in the Korean War, the majority of whom were civilians, making it perhaps the deadliest conflict of the Cold War-era.” Nobody comes out of it looking good.
As a movie, it is beautifully filmed and well acted but lacks convincing significant personal storytelling. And has a vast cast; extras numbering up to 70,000. And in China has been very well received and become a block-buster within a week of opening. See the Internet Movie Database for details
While lots of people regard official Chinese statistics about the pandemic with suspicion, I offer a personal anecdote:
On 3rd September I went to one of the city’s (10m population) large hospitals to collect the results of my annual Health Check done on 17th August. To enter the hospital there was a mask mandate in place and you needed to show your electronic vaccine passport. The hospital was running normally and the only sign of PPE was universal mask wearing. Regular routine procedures were being carried out (like our annual health checks) and there were no waiting lists. Back in August my checks included a CT scan to check a minor lung condition and we requested extra Vitamin D blood tests to ensure our immune systems could work optimally. The staff, nurses and doctors were all relaxed and none showed any signs of stress.
Does this match any hospital in the UK at the moment?
Having had a dramatic spread of the virus following an outbreak in Nanjing Airport discovered on 20 July, affecting as many as 18 provinces, the last few days have shown a big drop in locally spread infections. 3 days ago there were zero new local infections, the first since July, and 3 or 4 in the last couple of days (not including imported cases limited to quarantine situations).
Some cities have had huge testing programmes. Yangzhou (4.4m) has been tested between 7 and 12 times (I’ve seen different reports). Yesterday’s 3 infections were all in Yunnan.
My city of Changsha has now been 24 days free of new cases.