Wuhan Diary #20: The Twenty-fourth Day of the Wuhan City Closure — February 15, 2020

巴丢草 Badiucao 

February 15: The 24th day of Wuhan City Closure

There was another thunderstorm last night. I turned off all the lights in my room, opened my curtains and lay on my bed. The night was very dark; maybe because most of the city’s neon lights are off. The sky held no moon or stars. There was only the occasional flash of lightning, pouring rain, and the wind howling near my ear. This morning we had a big snowstorm. All day long from snow flakes dropped our biggest snowstorm of the season.

I hope now that the storm is over Spring will finally come. I also hope that the two emergency field hospitals won’t leak anymore.

Last night, before going to sleep, I saw a friend, a nurse working on the front lines, in our WeChat friends’ group. I chatted with her briefly. Since the epidemic began, I haven’t had much contact with my medical worker friends. I just send them brief messages just to make sure that they are alright. I am afraid that asking them too many questions would burden people who are already very busy.

Her WeChat story was about the events of February 9th. That night Wuchang district brought together some diagnosed patients who had not yet been hospitalized for

treatment. While they were being transferred to hospitals (anyone with eyes to see would realize that is what was going on) many of the patients were trapped out in the cold with no way to get admitted to the hospital. This happened because the local communities and the street committees didn’t coordinate with each other so everything was organized very poorly. Media reports aroused public anger. On February 10, team sent by the Communist Party Central Committee to direct work met with the Wuchang District leader. During those discussions, someone blamed the delays in making timely arrangements for patients on petty formalities in hospital admissions.

Before I saw my nurse friend’s comments in our friends’ WeChat group, I had already seen sarcastic comments by several physician friends who independently confirmed what the nurse had said. They angrily condemned the Wuchang District government for shirking its responsibilities. These friends said that on the afternoon of February 9th they had already prepared the hospital wards to receive the patients. They flatly contradicting what the government said. If you were to ask me whom to believe, the answer is obvious.

This wasn’t the first time that government officials “shifted the blame” to the hospitals. Wuhan Mayor Zhou Xianwang during his interview with Chinese Central Television said that fourteen physicians and nurses of the Neurosurgery Department of Wuhan Union Hospital were infected with the new coronavirus pneumonia because “the Neurosurgery Department ignored the fact that the patient had contracted new coronavirus pneumonia before being admitted”. That statement angered the physicians and nurses who then publicly contradicted the Mayor. This protest may well have been what caused Wuhan Union Hospital later to be unfairly discriminated against in the allocation of supplies.

China virus
Al-Jazeera on 2/2/20: “Wuhan Union Hospital received just 5,000 surgical masks, while two other hospitals – Wuhan Ren’ai and Wuhan Tianyou – received 32,000. Neither Ren’ai nor Tianyou hospital treats coronavirus-infected patients, and each has one-tenth of the number of medics employed by Wuhan Union…..a report on donations and deliveries from Hubei’s Red Cross – the first since the beginning of the outbreak – showed that of two million masks donated from across China, the local Red Cross had delivered 200,000 to hospitals.”

How can anything get done when all those officials are just spineless power-abusing cowards! If there were just one coward, perhaps that could be explained away as “an accident”. What explanation can be found for the behavior of the miserable vermin who flood our government offices?

Now stricter measures closing off each and every individual community have begun. My community issued an announcement on the community WeChat group explaining which entrances had been closed. Everyone was asked to stay home and not go outside. The notice did not mention deliveries. That was a major oversight. I haven’t gone out yet so I don’t know if we really have a “strict closure of the entire village”. I think it would be fairly difficult to seal off our community. Many other communities have stipulated that each household can arrange one person to leave the community to go shopping every three days or else the community organizes a group purchase of vegetables. My community has done nothing of the sort. Will express company employees be allowed to enter our community to deliver items we ordered online? How do we pick up delivered items? I posed these questions in the community WeChat group but got no answer.

A friend told me an interesting story. His community sent an infected old man in his 80s to a quarantine camp after being diagnosed with a mild case of coronavirus pneumonia fled the camp and returned home without permission. Community staff, police and his son tried, but failed, to persuade him to return to the camp to be quarantined. They had no alternative but to allow the old man to home quarantine and posted a notice to that effect to the community. His neighbors were surprised the next day to see him exercising downstairs and putting out the trash. That caused an uproar.

Aiyah, considering the level of management skills and quarantine effectiveness in my community, I just have no idea how long we’ll be stuck at home.

Yesterday, I was still wondering how with the huge quantities of medical supplies that the government was requisitioning, how it could be that the hospitals were still short of supplies. Where did all those supplies go? Yesterday I saw two news items that gave me some background.

First someone on a WeChat independent social media analyzed lists of supplies shipped from the Wuhan Red Cross Society of China official website. For example, on February 11th, 80.53% of the N95 face masks were distributed to government and administrative departments. That means that only 19.47% was sent to the designated hospitals and the prefabricated modular hospitals.

Second, someone from outside Wuhan made explosive allegations on Weibo that in his area a group purchase of face masks had been organized. The supplied claimed to be in Henan however the shipping information sent after the shipment had been made

indicated that the supplies had actually been sent from Wuhan. After receiving the goods, they looked up detailed information of the sender. The sender’s information was: He Jie, Workers Cultural Palace of Hannan, Wuhan Federation of Trade Unions, and outside of the box were written words: “Rescue Supplies”. In this case, I don’t want to leave out the real name of the sender. If corrected information comes out later, I will record it in this diary. The allegations are elaborate, complete, damning in their detail and supported by photographs. I find the information credible.

Looking at these two items together, it is clear what is going on. Only why should they care if we know? They know that we know but we still can’t do anything about it. That is what “totalitarianism” means: when we do good things, you must attribute it to the superiority of our system. If we do bad things, you must keep your mouths shut.

Two days ago, when the news of the “plasma treatment” for new coronavirus pneumonia ha just came out, I saw someone in our local WeChat group “reminding” us that we should be prudent about forwarding that news because it was suspected of being “fake news fabricated by forces from outside China Mainland to deliberately disrupt medical work on the front line.” The person who wrote that seemed to be a teacher.

Today I saw the video blog of a volunteer who was busy running around help the sick. When he shared his video blog, someone said “Don’t be providing material that will help forces outside Mainland China. That’s the top priority.”

I just don’t know how to express the feelings I have when I read things like that. I feel that if continue to do in-depth investigations, I will drown myself in feelings of despair and resentment. I feel even worse about these kinds of comments than I do about the epidemic itself. The degree of sadness I feel towards this kind of comment surpasses even the epidemic itself. The Chinese have been reduced to a pitiful state. They can’t even allow others to see their grief or their tears. If they do so, they are condemned for being “not patriotic” and for lacking “devotion to the Chinese Communist Party”. Compared with the collective, the individual seems to count for nothing.

I watched a Taiwanese drama recently about an innocent and lighthearted school romance. Even though the show wasn’t especially good, I had complicated feelings about it because all the characters could very naturally and casually say they “wanted to make their own way in freedom”.

In Mainland China “freedom” is among the “core values of socialism”. However, whenever anyone says that they want to be a free individual, they feel shame, they fear being ridiculed, and feel the need to be vigilant and cautious about what they say. Many people subconsciously realize that “we need to seek truth from facts”… The problem with that approach though is that it makes it hard to be so frank, open and natural.

I am very envious.

Chinese text:

2月15日  武汉封城第24天



























About 高大伟 David Cowhig

After retirement translated,with wife Jessie, Liao Yiwu's 2019 "Bullets and Opium", and have been studying things 格物致知. Worked 25 years as a US State Department Foreign Service Officer including ten years at US Embassy Beijing and US Consulate General Chengdu and four years as a China Analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Before State I translated Japanese and Chinese scientific and technical books and articles into English freelance for six years. Before that I taught English at Tunghai University in Taiwan for three years. And before that I worked two summers on Norwegian farms, milking cows and feeding chickens.
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