Extreme Heat Has Made China's Zero COVID Policy Risky For Front-Line Health Care Workers
Due to the extreme heat, China's zero-COVID policy has become much more difficult – and dangerous – for front-line health care personnel.
China is being struck on two fronts right now: the heat and the spike in COVID. It has the potential to be highly harmful to medical personnel.
A dramatic viral video from China shows COVID testers becoming physically ill, with several suffering from heat stroke. Amid the country's recent heat wave, they've had to labor long hours outside in those bulky safety suits.
In the aftermath of the Wuhan outbreak in early 2020, China implemented a 76-day mass lockdown. Despite being severe, it is credited with keeping the COVID-19 virus at bay in 2020 and 2021. Shanghai reopened on June 1st, two years after a 60-day lockdown this spring, with only 29 instances reported.
There is widespread concern that as long as China's Zero-COVID policy stays in place, epidemics will continue to prompt the reinstatement of unexpected lockdowns or other extreme restrictions, disrupting regular life. Even after Shanghai reopened, an estimated 133 million people were still under lockdown in 16 cities, and epidemics continued.
This testing scale costs billions of dollars, equating to 1.5 percent or more of China's GDP. An unwavering Zero-COVID strategy has had profound and .long-term sociological, political, and economic consequences in China.
Exasperation with strict and harsh treatment has flooded social media, while China's economy has frozen up even more than it did in early 2020. Disruptions in the economy affect the rest of the world, driving up prices and messing up supply chains.
Unlike in other parts of the world, this heat wave is wreaking havoc on the Chinese people, who are still hurting from the brutal COVID-19 lockdowns. Because of the highly contagious Omecron sub-variants, China is currently experiencing another increase in COVID cases.
As a result, at least 30 Chinese cities are now under complete or partial lockdown. This extreme heat wave is not only making it more suffocating for the people who are imprisoned and shut in their homes but also making it more difficult for these much-needed frontline healthcare personnel.
As scorching temperatures sweep across China, mass COVID testing becomes a hazardous undertaking. COVID workers collapse on the job, according to the footage, due to heat stroke.
A COVID worker vomits on the ground in eastern China as colleagues race to rip off her hazmat suit. She is taken away because she is unable to stand. This is a common occurrence in China.
Fainting, crumpling to the ground, immobile and fighting to breathe; according to official media, COVID workers worked long hours in suffocating heat, which was exacerbated by their head-to-toe, full-body protective gear that was not water-resistant. Sweat is dripping off this worker's hazmat suit.
Sweat accumulates inside the protective gear that lines the inside of their rubber gloves. Rising crime rates accompany the rising temperatures.
A rapid COVID test is required to enter any public venue in China, including in Beijing. That implies that young, old, and sick people will have to wait in huge lines in the scorching heat.
It's quite difficult and exhausting. And you feel anxious a lot of the time because you have things to do to survive.
COVID employees are getting inventive, hugging and laying massive blocks of ice on their backs, laps, and feet. Colleagues rub ice together and tape ice-cold water bottles to each other. COVID workers can now wear personal protective equipment (PPE) that does not cover their entire body, according to some authorities.
Meanwhile, crops are wilting and dying due to the extreme heat. The ground was parched and cracked. Damage to China's food output threatens to drive up prices, placing further strain on an economy already battered by the epidemic.
Several cities have experienced record high temperatures. More than 80 localities issued red alerts last week, with some registering temperatures of more than 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
A museum in central China was forced to close after its roof melted. Nanjing opened underground air raid shelters for residents to escape the heat.
In Zero COVID, China, however, officials give even healthcare employees hospitalized due to heat exhaustion a positive spin. In this propaganda movie, government leaders visit COVID employees in the critical care unit as immobile patients in bed are shown. The video inspires people to work together to defeat COVID.
Temperatures are beginning to cool in some regions of China, but experts warn that the worst is yet to come, with more severe weather anticipated in the coming months. Furthermore, this heat wave in China comes on the heels of severe floods that have displaced millions of people in China.
Climate change is the primary cause of the current heatwave. It is becoming a primary focus for the Chinese government, with the recent persistent deluge of weather-related events serving as a wake-up call to Beijing.
But the issue today is whether it's too late.