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’.