Beijing: A series of deaths at a hospital for elderly patients in Shanghai is underscoring the dangerous consequences of China’s stubborn pursuit of a zero-COVID approach amid an escalating outbreak in the city of 26 million people.
Multiple patients have died at the Shanghai Donghai Elderly Care hospital, relatives of patients told The Associated Press. They say their loved ones weren’t properly cared for after caretakers who came into contact with the virus were taken away to be quarantined, in adherence to the strict pandemic regulations, depleting the hospital of staff.
Family members have taken to social media to plea for help and answers and are demanding to see surveillance video from inside the facility after getting little to no information from the hospital.
The conditions and deaths at the hospital are a sharp rebuke of China’s strategy of sticking to a zero-COVID policy as it deals with the outbreak in Shanghai in which most of the infected people don’t have symptoms. With a focus on forcing positive cases and close contacts into designated collective quarantine facilities, the costs of zero-COVID may be outweighing the risk of getting sick.
On Saturday, Shanghai Vice Mayor Zong Ming said the lockdown could soon be lifted or eased in communities that report no positive cases within 14 days, after another round of citywide COVID-19 testing.
Shen Peiming, 71, was one such casualty of harsh measures. She died Sunday morning at the hospital, without any relatives by her side. A family member said they have been calling the hospital non-stop to find out the circumstances of Shen’s death, but have not gotten a clear answer. “How many times have there been lockdowns since 2020? They still don’t have experience managing this?” the family member said.
All they know is her doctor and nurses had not been there to care for Shen, who was partially paralyzed after a stroke. Her last nursing assistant had been quarantined for being a close contact of a positive case, the relative said, speaking on condition of anonymity out of fear of retribution. An unfamiliar worker called to inform them of her death. Later, the hospital said it was due to a chest infection.
The hospital had a COVID-19 outbreak, the family heard from orderlies, but Shen had tested negative as of last week.
Shanghai authorities have reported no deaths from this outbreak, but questions have been raised about the reliability of the data. A city health official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic, said that the criteria for confirming cases and deaths are very strict and susceptible to political meddling.