A nursing home in Shanghai put an elderly resident with Covid-19 in a yellow body bag and loaded her into a crematorium truck, only to discover before the car drove off that she was still alive.
The Shanghai government on Monday confirmed Sunday’s incident, which was caught on camera from at least two angles and was posted in videos that have gone viral across China. The authorities expelled a number of officials and revoked the license of the doctor involved, according to an official statement.
The accident struck a nerve in China. Especially in Shanghai, where many are now wondering if they can trust the elderly care system in which so many unvaccinated people died during the recent wave of infections.
Older people in Shanghai suffered more of the most deaths in the city, which accounts for all Covid-related deaths in China’s financial hub. Most of those who died were not vaccinated. On Tuesday, the city reported 20 new deaths from Covid the day before, bringing the death toll to 474.
Doubts have also emerged about whether the data tells the whole story. The infection has infected a number of 800 elderly care centers in the cityresulting in many deaths.
At least 40 elderly people have died after hundreds of patients and health workers at Donghai Elderly Nursing Hospital were infected. Those deaths occurred at the city’s largest elderly care facility about two weeks before Shanghai began reporting deaths of Covid patients in its daily virus tally, and it cannot be determined if they were added back to the numbers.
Although new locally transmitted infections in Shanghai have fallen by three-quarters since their peak in mid-April, millions of residents are still unable to leave their apartment complexes, and there is little indication of when life will return to normal.
Shanghai on Tuesday reported about 5,500 new Covid-19 infections from the previous day, which is more than 95% of the nationwide total and nearly 100 times the latest daily cases in Beijing.
Pang Xinghu, deputy director of the city’s CDC, said at a press conference on Tuesday that authorities had detected 453 cases of infection in the Chinese capital since April 22. She said nearly 40 infections were traced to a single person who visited public toilets three times. The city has postponed Back to School and Kindergarten Day to at least May 11.
Officials in the Chinese capital moved quickly to restrict movements in the city and close public spaces, including the Universal Studios theme park, to avoid the chaos of a Shanghai-style lockdown – as well as heed warnings from China’s top leaders and state-run media. To strictly adhere to the zero-Covid policy.
Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, who ended a month-long visit to Shanghai on Sunday, told local officials that the city was at a critical stage in its fight against the virus and should continue with the goal of zero-Covid-19. Ms. Sun said, according to Xinhua, that Shanghai should “quarantine everyone who should be quarantined” and prevent the virus from re-emerging.
On Sunday, videos circulated on social media showing a black van from one of Shanghai’s major crematoriums parked at the gate of the New Long March welfare home.
Birds chirping in the background. What looks like a body lies on the floor of the truck, inside a yellow wrapping – the same color as the more common body bags in Shanghai. Two men from the crematorium, in blue protective gear, briefly approach the yellow figure.
“Alive!” Nobody says.
“Then why is there a death certificate?” asks a colleague in a Shanghai dialect.
Someone calls out in Mandarin to people inside the nursing home, asking if they are sure the patient has died.
“The person is still moving,” one said.
An employee in white then exits the facility and goes to the truck to check again, before taking the woman—still in the yellow bag—inside on a wheeled bed.
Someone in the background says it’s a positive case, while another person nearby sprays disinfectant into the air.
The Putuo district government, where New Long March operates, said on Monday it had launched an investigation as soon as the videos went viral. A statement from the county official
The account said the person featured in the video was taken to the hospital, where his vital signs remained stable. The head of the nursing home and three other officials have been fired, and another local official has been placed under investigation.
Calls to New Long March went unanswered.
In Beijing, officials announced on Tuesday tighter controls on travel to and from the capital. Starting Thursday, people commuting to and from the city must test negative in the 48 hours prior to the first flight and during the past week for subsequent commutes. Anyone without valid health documents will not be allowed to enter or exit the city.
State media continued to defend the anti-epidemic strategy now called “Zero COVID dynamic”.
Li Bin, deputy director of the National Health Commission, told Xinhua that dynamic zero is the “winning spell” in China’s efforts to contain COVID-19.
“The path is right and the effects are good,” he said.
Corrections and amplifications
Shanghai on Tuesday reported about 100 times as many new locally transmitted Covid-19 cases as Beijing. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that it was about 10 times as much. (corrected May 4th)
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