On Jan. 8, several cities in northern China’s Hebei Province were placed under lockdown amid a resurgence of COVID-19 cases. Then, in mid-January, local authorities in Xingtai city of Hebei Province tightened controls when confirmed cases continued to rise.
The Epoch Times obtained a series of classified documents from Xingtai municipal government revealing that many residents who were not affected by COVID-19 had struggled desperately to get treatment for heart disease, kidney failure, and tumors due to the harsh and inhumane lockdown measures that were imposed.
Death During Call to Mayor’s Hotline for Help
In the document, titled “Xingtai City’s Hotline Handling Records,” a Jan. 16 log indicated that a resident had to call the mayor’s hotline in the evening because an elderly resident had a fever and all attempts to get treatment had failed. The patient passed away during that call.
A resident surnamed Qin, who is familiar with the situation, explained to The Epoch Times that the patient was a senior citizen surnamed Guo living in the rural area of Xingtai. He suddenly had a high fever and showed symptoms of asthma, although he had no medical history of asthma and had been generally in good health. However, his family could not find a hospital that would admit him for treatment.
“He left behind his spouse and a six-year-old grandchild. His children, who live out of town, wanted to come home to arrange a funeral for him, but village authorities refused to help,” Qin said. “In addition, his family does not know what illness Mr. Guo had. It could have been the novel coronavirus, but they could not verify.”
Guo’s district was under strict lockdown as of the evening of Jan. 16. Residents were ordered to self-quarantine at home and all essential workers to stay at their workplaces and not go home.
Guo was not alone in experiencing a desperate situation under lockdown. According to the internal documents, the families of a number of critically ill patients also called the mayor’s hotline desperately seeking for help.
A cancer patient surnamed Yan needed to go to Beijing for third-phase chemotherapy in early January. However, the district in Xingtai city that she lives in was a virus hotspot. She told The Epoch Times that she called the local pandemic control office many times to get permission to go to Beijing, but none of her phone calls went through.
According to the internal document, a patient with heart disease, surnamed Feng, and who lives in a rural part of Xingtai city, had a heart attack around Jan. 20. His family called both the 120 emergency line and local government offices, only to be told there was a shortage of ambulances. Feng’s younger brother, who called the city’s Help Hotline again on Jan. 23, revealed that his brother’s illness had worsened to the point that he was often out of breath.
A resident surnamed Zhang had to go to the Chinese medicine hospital for chemotherapy for a malignant stomach tumor. By Jan. 22, he had been in contact with the 120 emergency line every day for a week, but was still on a waiting list.
The shortage of ambulances and hospital beds could indicate that the local epidemic situation is a lot worse than official figures show. Xingtai city reported only a few cases daily; and the highest number was around 24 in a single day.
On Jan. 23, a resident surnamed Qi begged for help from the Help Hotline. Her brother has kidney failure and urgently needs dialysis. Doctors at the county hospital said they do not provide such service, and the local Chinese medicine hospital refused to take any patients from villages that had confirmed cCOVID-19 patients.
A resident surnamed Yang called the Help Hotline on Jan. 22. An elderly parent, who recently had surgery to remove a tumour, was experiencing bloating. When she consulted with doctors at a local hospital, she was told it was an emergency situation and the patient had to go to the Great Wall Hospital in nearby Shijiazhuang city for treatment. However, as Xingtai was under lockdown, Yang had to call the local pandemic control office to get permission to leave the city. No one at the office ever picked up the phone, Yang said, when reporting the issue to the city’s Help Hotline.
There was also a young man, surnamed Wang, who could not enter Xingtai, his home city, when both his parents were in dire need.
Wang works in Shijiazhuang, the capital city of Hebei Province, and his parents live in Xingtai. Wang told The Epoch Times that on Jan. 20, his mother had a cerebral hemorrhage and passed out. She was taken to a hospital, which left Wang’s father, who is paralyzed and bedridden for years, at home unattended.
Wang quickly arranged to have a nucleic acid test for COVID-19 in Shijiazhuang, which is required for traveling. As soon as he got the negative test result two days later, he contacted officials of Xingtai’s Xikang village. Although the entire village had no confirmed COVID-19 patients and was designated as a low-risk area, local officials still imposed strict lockdown measures and forbade him to come home. As everyone was ordered to stay at home, Wang could not arrange to have any of the neighbors look after his father either.
The above are just a fraction of the cases involving critically ill patients reported through the Xintai city’s Help Hotline in January.
In addition, dozens of truck drivers trying to return to their homes in Xingtai were stuck on the road, even though some of them had presented negative test results to prove they were healthy. Xingtai City’s Help Line logged several calls from these long-distance truck drivers, who complained that pandemic control staff in other cities did not allow them to pass through, and they had been stranded with no food or lodging for days.
Local authorities in Xingtai recently adjusted the risk level rankings of many neighborhoods, lowering all high and medium-risk areas to low-risk designation. However, locals told The Epoch Times that the designations were just a political show before the Chinese New Year, which falls on Feb. 12 this year.
A resident surnamed Wang of Nangong, a satellite city of Xingtai, revealed that many residents in Nangong will have a miserable Chinese New Year.
“We are all staying at home, and there are paper strips on the door to lock us inside. I am not talking about paper strips on the building entrance. Each household has a paper strip on their door,” Wang told the publication on the eve of the lunar New Year.
He and his neighbors had taken the nucleic acid tests many times, and all of his test results were negative.
According to Wang, not knowing when the lockdown will be lifted and having to spend the New Year under “house detention” made people feel very sad.
“Some cannot take it anymore,” Wang said, “I know of people who have become depressed from the lockdown.”
While local residents experienced firsthand how serious the situation is, Chinese state-run media touted victory over the authorities’ handling of COVID-19 around the Chinese New Year, assuring the people that the “China-style lockdown” is an efficient method that would certainly conquer the disease within three weeks.
Gu Qing-er contributed to this report.