As China embraces the long-delayed COVID outbreak, medical workers are urged to keep working even if they, unfortunately, catch the virus.

As mainland media The Paper reported on December 13, China’s ex-chief scientist at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Zeng Guang, said that Beijing had ordered the frontline medical workers to carry on their service if the infection is asymptomatic or mild. 

He said it was the only way to ensure that clinics and hospitals were always available to serve the people.

Chinese expert Chen Xi from Yale University has contacted multiple healthcare directors and staff to talk about the pandemic situation in China. They confirmed health workers were working despite their COVID infection. 

But he told the BBC that this would make it easier for coronavirus to spread, adding that Chinese citizens tend to visit hospitals even if their COVID sickness is moderate. While this may overwhelm the healthcare system, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) hasn’t advised people to stay home if their illness is not severe.

The direction also reflected the manpower shortage in China’s ill-considered removal of the “zero-COVID” policy.

A doctor identified as Li from a Sichuan hospital told Reuters, “Our hospital is overwhelmed with patients. There are 700 or 800 people with fever coming every day. We are running out of medicine stocks for fever and cold, and now wait for delivery from our suppliers.”

Dr. Li added that protective gadgets have been running scant in his hospital, estimating that many staff members would soon contract the virus.

In response to the outbreaks, the BBC reported that some of China’s once-loathed isolation sites had been repurposed into makeshift hospitals. The scramble to manage living with the virus, nevertheless, sparked doubts in the CCP. 

After the mass protests in late November, Beijing about-faced from declaring war on the virus to urging the public to self-care. Finally, frustrations with hardline lockdowns grew enough that protesters chanted for the end of the ruling CCP and its incumbent leader Xi Jinping.

The questions go, as the BBC listed, from why the CCP would not prepare the healthcare system before lifting measures, why maintaining the policy for so long, or why let the policy destroy the economy so much before lifting it.

According to the CCP’s current logic, the virus has been less lethal than it used to be.
Chinese specialist Marina Rudiyak from the university of Heidelberg said, “There has been speculation that the party was looking for a way out because of the economic consequences. Now they can say that it’s the citizens that wanted an end of the zero-COVID policy. And they can shift the responsibilities, in particular, to the students who protested against the zero-COVID policy if the numbers go up.”

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