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Coronavirus: Baby born to 'infected' mother as backlash grows against local Wuhan officials

Nicola Smith
The baby was delivered by doctors in Hazmat suits. Its mother is suspected of being infected with coronavirus - TIKTOK

The video released on Chinese state media on Sunday, set to an uplifting melody, shows a healthy baby crying in a delivery room in Hubei province as it is swiftly taken away to be examined. 

But the presence of four doctors in protective Hazmat suits jars with the supposedly happy mood. The baby’s 28-year-old mother, still being treated on the operating table in the footage, is highly suspected of having Wuhan’s deadly coronavirus. 

Far from the more optimistic messaging of China’s strictly regulated media, desperate medical staff in Wuhan, Hubei province, the epicentre of the virus that has so far officially killed 56 and infected 1,975, have been appealing for more supplies and back-up as they struggle to contain the health emergency. 

Volunteers reportedly rushed with supplies to hospitals after at least 24 in Wuhan and other, smaller nearby cities, put out calls for public donations of supplies including face masks, goggles and medical gowns. 

Medics have also warned they are short-staffed and out of hospital beds, prompting the authorities to send 450 military doctors as back-up, and pledging to build two new hospitals within weeks. 

The first, a new 1000-bed hospital is due to be finished by February 3, and the second 1,300-bed facility is expected to be completed within two weeks. 

On Sunday, it was revealed that Chinese doctors have started to use Lopinavir, the drug used against HIV infections, to treat patients as the number of infections rockets by the day despite the sealing off of Wuhan and public transport curbs in 13 other provincial cities. 

But with public health and virology experts warning that too little was done too late to contain a virus that first emerged in mid-December from a seafood market, a backlash has begun against local government officials for failing to act. 

Doctors in Wuhan have been among those calling for health officials to be held to account, reported the South China Morning Post. 

In a public letter to China’s top health authority, the National Health Commission, an unnamed doctor who claimed to be from a top Wuhan hospital blamed the rapid spread of the coronavirus – which has a similar pathogen to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome - on the slow response of local health officials.

The doctor alleged that the numbers of patients infected with the disease had been growing since January 12, but the local health authority had failed to report new cases. 

“These patients were not given proper quarantine nor medical treatment and they could travel in every corner of the city,” the doctor wrote. 

“Later, when we warned patients and the public to wear masks and avoid crowded areas, they didn’t take it seriously and thought we were exaggerating, and even some medical staff, including surgeons didn’t believe it and were not willing to take basic precautions.”

Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of The Global Times, a nationalist newspaper affiliated, also charged on Weibo, the Chinese social media account, that China should have taken preventive measures at an earlier stage.

“We have had the experience of Sars, and this outbreak is similar to Sars,” he wrote. “This outbreak should not have happened in China which has advanced medical standards and social organisation capability. I personally believe the Wuhan city and national health care authorities should be responsible.”

His paper later reported that China’s State Council  had opened a special whistleblowing channel on the popular messaging app WeChat for the public to report officials for malpractice. 

Meanwhile, China on Saturday announced a ban on overseas tours, and the lockdown is spreading across the country of 1.4 billion. 

Shantou, in South China’s Guangdong Province, will be the next city to introduce travel restrictions which have so far corralled more than 50 million people. From Monday, no vehicles, ships or personnel will be allowed to enter the city except for emergencies. 

France, Russia and the US said on Saturday that they would evacuate their citizens from Wuhan, and a charter flight will leave for San Francisco on Tuesday. On Sunday, South Korea said it would also arrange a flight to transport 500 of its nationals out of the dangerzone.