Tales of anguish emerge from China’s locked-down Xi’an as hospitals demand patients are covid-free

On the first day of 2022, outside Xi’an Gaoxin Hospital, in the middle of China’s worst coronavirus outbreak since Wuhan, a woman eight months pregnant miscarried after being refused care until she had tested negative for the virus.

After feeling pain in her belly, the woman called an ambulance, according to an account from her niece posted on Tuesday evening on the microblog Weibo. Without a negative coronavirus test, she had to wait outside emergency care for two hours until staff relented when they saw that she was bleeding heavily.

But by then, her aunt had already miscarried, according to the post, which was deleted after gaining nearly 6 million views. Neither woman was identified and The Washington Post was unable to independently confirm details of the account. An employee of the hospital’s quality-of-care department who answered the phone Wednesday said the matter had been investigated and an official statement would be released soon.

The tragedy has tapped into mounting anguish and disbelief about dysfunction in Xi’an, the central Chinese city of 13 million, which has imposed China’s strictest all-resident lockdown since Wuhan two years ago. Nearly 1,800 symptomatic infections have been confirmed in the city after the local government ordered mass testing and centralized quarantine to halt the spread of the virus.

As the rest of the world has become resigned to strategies of mitigating the virus, China has stuck fast to a policy of attempting to completely cut off transmission as soon as new outbreaks emerge, an approach it calls “dynamic zero covid.”

That whack-a-mole strategy has been largely effective. The Chinese Communist Party’s decision to make covid-19 prevention a top priority spurred local officials to impose rapid and severe — but relatively targeted — lockdowns whenever infections appeared. In the last year, even larger outbreaks were limited to a few hundred cases.

But dysfunction in Xi’an caused by the city’s poorly managed containment-at-all-costs approach is raising alarm about unacceptable human distress when the unyielding policy goes wrong.

Residents, who are confined to their homes, already feared delayed or insufficient food deliveries in some areas of the city. They are now worried that hospitals, overwhelmed with coronavirus cases, are struggling to provided adequate care to non-coronavirus patients, a repeat of similar chaotic scenes in Wuhan nearly two years ago.

By Wednesday morning, the miscarriage had become one of the top trending topics on the platform, as outraged users called for the hospital to take responsibility for the death of the unborn child, should it become clear that the delay caused the loss.

“There are many uncertainties during the time of an epidemic, but making reasonable arrangements is the most important thing,” one user wrote, using a hashtag viewed 380 million times by midday Wednesday. The Shaanxi provincial branch of the China All-Women’s Federation, the Chinese Communist Party’s official organization for promoting women’s rights, promised an investigation.

Dozens of similar cries for help have appeared on Chinese social media in recent days. Another case involved a child with HIV who had a fever of 105.8 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 days but was turned away from multiple hospitals. He eventually received care after his family’s post went viral.

Online commentators began to talk of the failures of Xi’an’s response as a second crisis, no worse than that of the virus itself. “In today’s Xi’an, you can starve to death, can get sick and die, but you just cannot die of covid,” one wrote.


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