China Debuts ‘Health Silk Road’ to Italy While Wuhan Residents Can’t Get Health Care

Tourists wearing respiratory masks visit the Coliseum in Rome on March 6, 2020. - Italy on March 5 reported 41 new deaths from the novel coronavirus, its highest single-day total to date, bringing the number of fatalities in Europe's most affected country to 148. All of Italy's 22 regions have …
TIZIANA FABI/AFP via Getty Images

The Chinese Communist Party announced a new mission of “medical experts” to Italy on Tuesday as reports continue to surface that residents in Wuhan, the city where the pandemic originated, are struggling to receive treatment at hospitals.

Medical experts believe the first documented case of Chinese coronavirus occurred in Wuhan, a city of 11 million, on November 17, 2019. The Communist Party alerted the World Health Organization (WHO) to the outbreak of an unknown pathogen in Wuhan in early January, but only made a public announcement on the outbreak on January 20. The government there continued to allow and host thousands-strong public events in the nearly three months in between the first case and the public announcement.

A week ago, the Communist Party announced that the peak of the outbreak in Wuhan had ended. The announcement coincided with dictator Xi Jinping, after hiding in Beijing for months, finally visiting Wuhan to “inspect” the coronavirus response there. Fearing protests similar to chants of “everything is fake” echoing from quarantined homes during a visit by a vice-premier of the Communist Party, police kept Wuhan residents silent and compliant in their homes at gunpoint while Xi walked the metropolis’s empty streets.

Shortly after Xi’s visit, attempts to return parts of Hubei province, for which Wuhan serves as the regional capital, to normal business operations largely failed. Much of Hubei remains on lockdown and reports indicate that patients exhibiting Chinese coronavirus symptoms are struggling to receive health care, as China shut down many of its emergency facilities in Wuhan.

Chinese officials are now claiming that the outbreak in Wuhan is over and announced on Wednesday that they are sending their surplus medical staff to Italy.

According to the Chinese government Xinhua news agency, Xi Jinping called Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Monday evening to tell him “that China firmly supports Italy and has full confidence in Italy’s victory over the epidemic.”

Xi reportedly announced through the call the “construction of a Health Silk Road,” a medically centered version of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that Xi has been struggling to bring to every developing country in the world. The BRI is a global infrastructure plan that would allow China full control of every major port, road, and railway in the world facilitated through China offering developing countries predatory loans that the countries then use to pay China to build unaffordable infrastructure projects. Italy signed onto the BRI in March 2019, alarming much of Europe.

Xi’s “Health Silk Road” will reportedly launch with a delegation of “medical experts” who will land in Italy and bring medical supplies and other “assistance,” according to Xinhua. The agency did not specify how many Chinese medical experts would travel to Italy, when they would do so, or what specific medical supplies they would bring with them.

As China prepares its deployment to Italy, Xinhua announced the departure of thousands of health workers from Wuhan and Hubei province generally.

“The first batch of medical assistance teams started leaving Hubei Province early on Tuesday as the epidemic outbreak in the hard-hit province has been subdued,” Xinhua reported. “The 3,675 medical staffers belonging to 41 medical teams from across China have assisted 14 temporary hospitals and seven designated hospitals in Wuhan, the provincial capital and epicenter of the outbreak.”

“Wuhan people have acted bravely. I hope life here will return to normal as soon as possible, and the city will become more and more beautiful,” Xinhua quoted a health worker named Cui Yaqing as saying. Their departure, the agency claimed, was necessary as the outbreak had largely concluded in Hubei province.

China Daily, another Chinese regime publication, announced last week that Wuhan would shut down 15 “temporary hospitals” established to treat coronavirus patients. The “hospitals” – actually sports stadiums, warehouses, and other facilities rapidly equipped with medical gear – treated over 12,000 combined, but had seen a steep decline in patients coming in, the Communist Party claimed. It nonetheless admitted that doctors in the city were still treating over 13,000 patients, presumably mostly coronavirus patients.

On Tuesday, Chinese health officials claimed that, excepting Wuhan, Hubei has not reported any new coronavirus cases for the last 12 days. Reports out of Wuhan indicate, however, that the medical crisis there is far from over, however, and that residents continue to need medical attention they cannot access – raising questions as to how much worse the health crisis may get as China moves thousands of doctors out of Hubei and sends delegations to Italy.

The Epoch Times, an anti-communist newspaper, cited anonymous residents in Wuhan concerned that they were exhibiting Chinese coronavirus symptoms and could not find a hospital to treat them. In one interview, a woman identified only as Ms. Fu said that doctors had confirmed her as a coronavirus case, treated her, and let her go. Her condition worsened after being released, but doctors refused to treat her again. Fu did reportedly manage to get a hospital to conduct a blood test and CT scan.

“The hospital’s diagnosis report stated that Fu had thin film blurs in both lungs, which could be infected lesions. At the same time, Fu’s artery, liver, and gallbladder were damaged,” the Epoch Times reported. “Despite Fu’s clinical symptoms matching those of COVID-19 patients, the hospital refused to treat her, saying that her diagnostic test came back negative. The Wuhan No. 9 Hospital is a designated hospital that takes in patients from the quarantine center where Fu was staying. But that facility also refused her.”

Wuhan residents suffering from other conditions have also been struggling to receive care throughout March. In the beginning of the month, the New York Times revealed the story of a three-year-old suffering from cancer who could not find a hospital to offer chemotherapy following the outbreak of coronavirus

“The boy, Fu Haoran, who has leukemia, is one of many seriously ill people struggling to get urgent, lifesaving treatment as China pours nearly all its resources into the coronavirus epidemic,” the Times reported. “Some have not survived. Others like Haoran are in limbo, and their families fear for their future.”

Chen Xi, an assistant professor at the Yale School of Public Health, told the Times that “it was likely that preventable deaths from strokes, heart attacks and other acute diseases could outnumber the lives saved from treating coronavirus patients.”

Chinese officials have not clarified why the nation has chosen to withdraw medical experts from the country and send others to Italy when there is no confirmation that the healthcare crisis in Wuhan has concluded.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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