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China And COVID: Everything Old Is New Again
Do We Really Know What Is Happening In China?
The corporate media fear porn over China’s latest COVID outbreak has an eerie and disquieting sense of deja vu about it.
We’ve seen this story before—three years ago, almost to the date, when the first cases of a “pneumonia of unknown etiology” began surfacing in China and Hong Kong.
All the elements are there: the misinformation and disinformation both from the Chinese government and the corporate media, the social media reports of significant deaths from COVID, and above all, the fear—a fear which was never justifiable outside of China.
In keeping with the origins of the Pandemic Panic Narrative, the media carries account after account of overwhelmed hospitals and overworked doctors and nurses—of an healthcare system pushed past the brink of collapse.
Chinese hospitals and funeral homes were under intense pressure on Wednesday as a surging COVID-19 wave drained resources, while the scale of the outbreak and doubts over official data prompted some countries to consider new travel rules on Chinese visitors.
While Beijing’s “official” numbers appear to downplay the severity of the outbreak, there are repeated stories from people in China attesting to the healthcare crisis unfolding in that country.
Staff at Huaxi, a big hospital in the southwestern city of Chengdu, said they were "extremely busy" with COVID patients.
"I’ve been doing this job for 30 years and this is the busiest I have ever known it," said one ambulance driver outside the hospital who declined to be identified.
There were long queues inside and outside the hospital’s emergency department and at an adjacent fever clinic on Tuesday evening. Most of those arriving in ambulances were given oxygen to help with their breathing.
Certainly in the case of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province, the reports of overwhelmed hospitals appear to be legitimate, as China’s Caixin Global news outlet has a full gallery of photos detailing the burden this latest outbreak has placed on the city’s hospitals.
Hospitals in the city have been overwhelmed as Covid-19 infections surge. The capital of Southwest China’s Sichuan province has been dealing with a shortage of hospital beds even though an official tally of the number of daily visits to local fever clinics has fallen. The local government has established 602 fever clinics in hospitals and community medical centers to handle demand for treatment
Nor is it just the hospitals that are overloaded. Also according to Caixin Global, China has all but run out of over-the-counter cold and flu remedies, as well as prescription antivirals to give to someone sick with COVID.
In early December, shelves in pharmacies across China quickly emptied as people scrambled to stock up medicines, according to media reports, social media posts and interviews with ordinary citizens conducted by Caixin. Many have had to wait hours in line to get strictly rationed amounts of medicines, while orders placed online are taking weeks to deliver.
In addition to Caixin Global, the South China Morning Post has posted videos showing patients being hooked up to IVs in their cars due to hospital overcrowding. The images that have come out of China all seem to confirm the narrative of China’s healthcare system buckling and even collapsing under a massive surge of COVID patients.
While we cannot say with certainty how many are sick with COVID, nor how many are in hospital, we may safely say that the answer appears to be “a lot.”
Yet no aspect of the corporate media’s orgasmic reporting about China’s COVID outbreak is more disturbing than the seemingly endless litany of stories detailing how China’s crematoria are overwhelmed by a sudden influx of remains—of which a large portion are COVID patients who succumbed to the disease.
Beijing Dongjiao Crematory, on the eastern edge of the Chinese capital, has experienced a jump in requests for cremation and other funerary services, according to people who work at the compound.
“Since the Covid reopening, we’ve been overloaded with work,” said a woman who answered the phone at the crematorium on Friday. “Right now, it’s 24 hours a day. We can’t keep up.”
In Chengdu, similar stories are emerging.
Car parks around the Dongjiao funeral home, one of the biggest in Chengdu, were full. Funeral processions were constant as smoke billowed from the crematorium.
“We have to do this about 200 times a day now,” said one funeral worker. “We are so busy we don’t even have time to eat. This has been the case since the opening up. Before it was around 30-50 a day.”
"Many have died from COVID,” said another worker.
At another Chengdu crematorium, privately-owned Nanling, staff were equally busy.
“There have been so many deaths from COVID lately,” one worker said. “Cremation slots are all fully booked. You can’t get one until the new year.”
Also in Zhouzhou.
At the Zhuozhou crematorium, furnaces are burning overtime as workers struggle to cope with a spike in deaths in the past week, according to one employee. A funeral shop worker estimated it is burning 20 to 30 bodies a day, up from three to four before COVID-19 measures were loosened.
However, even this macabre dimension to the COVID story in China seems like a retread, as similar stories filled corporate media in early 2020.
Workers at crematoriums in Wuhan City, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, say their workload has increased dramatically in recent days, as they constantly transfer the bodies of victims from hospitals and private homes.
At the end of March, 2020, Radio Free Asia reported that Wuhan’s crematoria had been handing out hundreds of urns with ashes every day since the start of the outbreak, suggesting the actual death toll from the virus was far greater than the official statistics.
Since the start of the week, seven large funeral homes in Wuhan have been handing out the cremated remains of around 500 people to their families every day, suggesting that far more people died than ever made the official statistics.
"It can't be right ... because the incinerators have been working round the clock, so how can so few people have died?" an Wuhan resident surnamed Zhang told RFA on Friday.
What made the 2020 stories even more macabre was that COVID did not present anywhere near as seriously outside of China.
South America has reported the highest COVID deaths per million people.
However, the narrative of hundreds of bodies being cremated each day in China suggests a death toll many times South America’s peak.
Thus the corporate media’s fear porn presents us with a conundrum: if their narrative of events in China is accurate, why has Omicron been so much less severe outside of China?
Even accounting for China’s admittedly inadequate and brittle healthcare system, the corporate media attempts to generate fear over COVID hospitalization “surges” in this country were all too easily debunked and discredited each and every time.
Additionally, the data and the narrative both agreed on this much about COVID: Omicron was far less lethal, far less pathogenic, than either the original Wuhan strain or Delta.
How is it, then, that China is having such a time with the SARS-CoV-2 strain that is supposed to be the mildest and least deadly of all?
From the anecdotal evidences on social media and picked up in the corporate media narrative, the best appraisal of the latest COVID outbreak in China is that a lot of Chinese are getting sick with the virus.
How many of those are ending up in hospital, and how many are going to hospital when simple bed rest is all that is needed? That is impossible to say. Any attempt to quantify that would be pure speculation.
Similarly, the narrative about overwhelmed crematoria, while compelling, must also be viewed with a sense of skepticism and doubt. If the Wuhan crematoria were truly that overwhelmed in 2020, if the mortality among Chinese from COVID were that high, why on Earth would Xi Jinping or any dictator so cavalierly toss whatever mitigation and prevention strategy they had aside?
Having spent three years assuring China that Zero COVID was necessary to save lives, to so casually chuck the policy overboard is a level of callous disregard for human life worthy of Xi’s idol Mao Zedong himself—and also a foolhardy political mistake, given the capacity of the Internet even in China to “never forget” a single thing.
If the media reports are at all accurate, China is facing a long painful start to 2023, with rampant sickness, suffering, and even death. If the media reports are at all accurate, China’s “reopening” will have to wait a few months at least, if not longer, as the virus must burn itself out first before any attention can be paid to growing the economy and restarting various global supply chains.
If the media reports are at all accurate, China will not be restarting its economy in time to arrest the ongoing slide of the global economy deeper into recession and possibly into depression.
If the media reports are more Pandemic Panic Narrative nonsense, none of that is true and the Chinese economy could recover more quickly than otherwise thought.
The key word each time is, of course, “if”.
For all the anecdotal evidence appearing on social media, we do not have a clear or complete picture of how bad the Omicron outbreak is in China. We do not know the extent to which images of overwhelmed hospitals and crematoria are the norm rather than the exception. We do not know how many are sick, how many will get sick, and how many will die.
We can speculate, and the corporate media will speculate, but we simply do not know what is happening with the COVID outbreak in China, not with any degree of certainty. Between mutual propensity of the CCP and corporate media to lie, fudge, and fabricate to generate their preferred narrative, we are not likely to know any time soon, either.
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