You don’t see the Covid dead

Dhe beds in Puxian’s fever clinic are empty. Several ambulances are parked unused in the sun in front of the entrance. Three nurses are talking in the hallway. You seem relaxed. Two days ago, twenty corona patients were discharged at once, they say. The patients were “almost recovered”. The rest had been distributed to other departments of the small local hospital.

Friederike Böge

Political correspondent for China, North Korea and Mongolia.

In Puxian, a rural district of Northeast Shanxi Province of China, the virus seems to have lost its horror. At least for those who have not lost any relatives. Hardly anything here is reminiscent of the tense situation at the end of December, when the hospital was overrun by corona patients within a few days. “There were so many that I could only treat each one for two to three minutes,” says a doctor.

The same can be heard in the largest hotel in Puxian. “We’ve all had Corona here,” says the woman at reception. The streets were deserted for days. But now everyone has come out of their houses. At least in Puxian, the expectation seems to be that corona would spread to China’s rural areas with the great spring festival travel wave, cannot be confirmed. The festival starts this Saturday. But the virus had already rushed through here in the region dominated by coal mining. It all started right after the abrupt end of the zero-Covid policy on December 7, says the receptionist at the Liangshi Hotel. This once again suggests that the situation was long out of control when the Chinese leadership stopped all preventive measures overnight a good six weeks ago.

The Year of the Rabbit begins

The empty beds in Puxian seem to confirm the Chinese leadership’s propaganda. The peak of the Corona wave has been overcome. The number of seriously ill people across the country fell by more than 40 percent between January 5 and 17, the National Health Commission announced on Thursday. Optimism is to be spread just before the Chinese New Year. The year of the rabbit begins on Sunday. In a video message for the Spring Festival, the head of state and party head swore Xi Jinping a “light of hope” at the end of the tunnel.

Overcrowded: Covid beds in Jinghong hospital on January 9th

Overcrowded: Covid beds in Jinghong hospital on January 9th

Image: AFP

Perhaps a little help was given in Puxian to deliver the numbers that Beijing wanted to announce. In any case, the nurse’s statement that “almost recovered” patients were dismissed in one fell swoop is suspicious. The transfer of patients from the fever clinic to other departments could also indicate numerical cosmetics. Chinese cadres work with targets to which reality must be adjusted if necessary. An official from the district administration visited on Tuesday. She brought shrink-wrapped beef for the medical staff, spoke of a difficult year, thanked them for their hard work, and sped off in her black limousine. At the entrance, a poster proclaimed: “The heart of the medical staff beats for the party.”

The district capital of Linfen, one and a half hours by bus from Puxian, also offers a picture of relaxation. The drive takes you through a rugged landscape, past coal mines and Xi Jinping quotes mounted on the mountainsides in large red letters. One is about green mountains and blue rivers – a dream that has not yet come true. For years, Linfen ranked first in the list of cities with the highest levels of air pollution.

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