COVID Wreaks Havoc On Chinese Towns

Yao Ruyan paced frantically outside the fever clinic of a county hospital in China’s industrial Hebei province, 70 kilometers (43 miles) southwest of Beijing.

Her mother-in-law had COVID-19 and needed urgent medical care, but all hospitals nearby were full.

“They say there’s no beds here,” she barked into her phone.

As China grapples with its first-ever national COVID-19 wave, emergency wards in small cities and towns southwest of Beijing are overwhelmed. Intensive care units are turning away ambulances, relatives of sick people are searching for open beds, and patients are slumped on benches in hospital corridors and lying on floors for a lack of beds. 

Yao’s elderly mother-in-law had fallen ill a week ago with the coronavirus. They went first to a local hospital, where lung scans showed signs of pneumonia. But the hospital couldn’t handle COVID-19 cases, Yao was told. She was told to go to larger hospitals in adjacent counties.

As Yao and her husband drove from hospital to hospital, they found all the wards were full. Zhuozhou Hospital, an hour’s drive from Yao’s hometown, was the latest disappointment. 

Yao charged toward the check-in counter, past wheelchairs frantically moving elderly patients . Yet again, she was told the hospital was full, and that she would have to wait.

“I’m furious,” Yao said, tearing up, as she clutched the lung scans from the local hospital. “I don’t have much hope. We’ve been out for a long time and I’m terrified because she’s having difficulty breathing.”