Chinese authorities and private enterprises are stepping up their support for embattled medical teams in Hubei province as they continue to fight the
epidemic, while neighbouring governments ramp up their efforts to prevent its further spread.
– the city at the centre of the outbreak – have been overwhelmed by the flood of patients and doctors are becoming increasingly frustrated at the lack of support, both in terms of supplies and personnel, they have received.
But national bodies say they are responding to the crisis.
On Saturday, China’s National Health Commission (NHC) said that six medical teams comprising 1,230 staff had been set up and dispatched to help fight the deadly virus in Hubei.
Three medical units from Shanghai, Guangdong and the armed forces had already arrived in the province, it said, though did not make clear if they were in addition to or part of the six teams.
Chen Dechang, a doctor from Ruijin Hospital in Shanghai who is among those sent to Hubei, said it was important there were more medical staff on the scene.
“We can help save more patients in the intensive care unit if we are on the front line,” he said.
Authorities in Shanghai have also sent 81 ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) life-support machines to Jinyintan Hospital, which is one of the designated facilities treating patients in Wuhan.
The ECMO technique – which involves removing blood from a person’s body, removing the carbon dioxide and oxygenating red blood cells before pumping them back into the patient – has already been used on one critically ill patient at Wuhan University’s Zhongnan Hospital, according to Shanghai-based news outlet Thepaper.cn.
Though the report did not say how effective the treatment had been.
The team from Guangdong comprised 42 doctors and 93 nurses, the NHC said. The deployment came after a group of current and former medical staff from Southern Medical University in Guangzhou – who had helped tackle the Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak in 2002-03 – signed a petition saying they were willing to help in Wuhan.
“We are a team of experienced practitioners who fought Sars,” they said in the petition, a copy of which was posted on the social media accounts of Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily.
“We cannot back away from our responsibility to help 17 years later as people are facing the outbreak of a new coronavirus. We are willing to be deployed to the front line to make our contributions.”
A team of 135 doctors from Chongqing arrived in Wuhan on Friday evening, the NHC said, without elaborating.
As well as the wave of medical support, several private companies said they had provided financial support to help fight the epidemic.
According to Chinese media reports, Shanghai Ocean Forest Assets has donated 10 million yuan (US$1.4 million) to the cause, while Shanghai-based asset management firm, Jinglin Assets is coordinating efforts to buy urgently needed medical supplies from South Korea and Japan.
Shenzhen’s Fantasia Holdings said it would donate 6 million yuan and send medical supplies, including surgical masks, to Wuhan, while tech giant Tencent said it would donate 300 million yuan from its charity. E-commerce platform JD.com said it had donated 1 million surgical masks and 60,000 other medical items.
Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi said on Friday it had sent a first batch of medical equipment – masks and thermometers worth more than 300,000 yuan – to Wuhan, while tech firm Lenovo said on Saturday it would donate all of the IT equipment required by the new specialist
being built in the city.
Authorities set a target to have the 1,000-bed facility up and running within six days of starting construction.
Aside from the support from the private sector, state lender China Development Bank on Friday issued a 2 billion yuan emergency loan to Wuhan, while a day earlier, China’s finance ministry said it had allocated 1 billion yuan to authorities in Hubei to help tackle the epidemic.
Across the country, authorities have introduced a number of measures to help prevent the further spread of the coronavirus, including the closure of all cinemas in Shanghai.
Also on Saturday it was reported that Liang Wudong, a doctor at Xinhua Hospital in Wuhan, had become the first medical professional to die after treating people infected with the virus.
Liang, 62, was suspected of having contracted the virus last week and had been transferred to Jinyintan Hospital for treatment. He died at 7am on Saturday, Thepaper.cn reported.
According to official figures, 41 people have been killed by the coronavirus and there have been more than 1,280 confirmed cases. The vast majority are in the Chinese mainland, but there have also been confirmed cases in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and eight other countries, including the United States and Europe.
Tens of millions of people in cities across Hubei are effectively on lockdown after the introduction of travel bans to help control the spread of the virus.