Chord Den Daas
Chord Den Daas
“Corona,” the old lady was still swaying from her stretcher. She doesn’t know when she was hit. But she is quick to say things are getting better. “Much better,” after which she has to cough really hard again. “We are waiting for a bed,” says her daughter. “Only when people are expelled can my mother be accepted.”
The reality is for dozens of other people in need in the corridor of De Weeping Wilg Hospital in Beijing, in a crowded emergency room. Although the peak in the number of infections in the capital may have passed, the consequences of the unannounced and completely unexpected release of corona measures are still festering in hospitals and crematoriums.
She is also busy in the morning at Shenzhen Second People’s Hospital. “The waiting time for the emergency room is about two hours,” someone in a blue jacket shouted. For a fee, drive away, usually a service to drive drunks home in their own car, so you don’t have to wait for a parking spot. “Most of them are Covid patients,” he says.
“You should have seen him here two weeks ago,” said one of the security guards. “Everybody’s got it now. It’s a lot quieter now.” There are no large groups of elderly people waiting in the corridors for oxygen and medicines, from orthopedics to oncology: other departments seem to operate as if nothing had ever happened.
What will come into play: Shenzhen is one of the smallest cities in China. In appearance and activity (the city is a hotbed of tech companies) but also in terms of population. The average age of Shenzhen residents is 32.5 years, compared to 37.5 on average nationwide. However, Shenzhen is not completely immune from the vagaries of Corona, as the crowds of the city’s only crematorium attest.
Relatives eagerly await their loved one’s name to appear on a large billboard, as if they were standing in front of a billboard announcing the arrival and departure of a train. There are hundreds of them in total: dozens of groups of relatives and friends of the deceased, who all want to know in which of the dozens of halls the coffin will soon be taken.
They all wear traditional mourning clothes. It is usually white, the color of mourning, and is sometimes supplemented with mourning hats. Almost every group bears the image of a relative who has left the earth realm, the literal translation of chushi, death in China. One company has not yet left the hall, or the next company is already eager to enter.
Understandably, few of them would like to talk. “I came to bury my father,” says one of the attendees, drowned out in Buddhist sounds from the Bluetooth speaker. He says he’s been waiting for hours. “Hopefully it will be our turn this afternoon.” Hustle and bustle here means good business at the Eternal Harmonie’s sales office, a stone’s throw from the crematorium.
“All vacations have been cancelled,” Lu said in response to a question about the effects or lack thereof of China’s new anti-coronavirus policy. “We don’t get any vacation during the Chinese New Year.” Particularly in recent days, she says, many places have been bought up. From about 5,300 for a modest spot at the foot of the mountain, to over 30,000 for a spot at the top overlooking a small lake. “There is calm, and Feng shui Lou says.
“We’re really, really busy,” says Lu. “Yesterday, the day before yesterday, we sold more than two dozen in one day.” It is much more than usual in the country, she says, where, according to researchers at Peking University, some 900 million people are or have now been infected. This amounts to about two-thirds of the population. How many deaths have occurred so far is still a guess. Several thousand a day seems like a defensive estimate.
Smoke ability test
Authorities have reported no more than a handful of deaths per day in recent weeks. They stopped doing that earlier this week. Partly it’s a matter of definitions: China, for example, doesn’t count Corona deaths if there really is underlying suffering. Another complicating factor: China’s massive testing capacity has gone up in smoke.
Various media outlets, including The Washington Post, have published satellite images showing crowded parking lots at crematoriums that corroborate what the World Health Organization also says: that China is seriously underreporting the number of deaths from Corona. Covid chief Liang Wannian said deaths can only be properly calculated when the epidemic is over.
While it’s still very busy at the crematorium in Shenzhen, Beijing, which peaked earlier, seems to be cooling down again. At least that’s what happens at Dongjiao Crematorium, although undercover agents must prevent journalists from seeing what’s going on behind the gates. “Get out or we’ll call the police!” Someone shouts. “Everything is normal here,” says one of the coffin sellers.