Beijing, Feb 14 (AFP/APP): Tired and understaffed, medical workers have had to deal with thousands of new cases per week in Wuhan, the city at the epicentre of the outbreak that first emerged late last year.
Many doctors have had to see patients without proper masks or protective body suits, resorting to reusing the same equipment when they should be changed regularly.
Some have even worn diapers to avoid having to take off the equipment and make it last longer, according to a health official.
One doctor at a community clinic in Wuhan said he and at least 16 other colleagues were showing symptoms similar to the new virus, including lung infections and coughing.
“As doctors, we do not want to work while being a source of infection,” he told AFP, requesting anonymity for fear of reprisals.
But “right now, there is no one to replace you,” the doctor explained, adding that all medical staff without a fever are expected to work.
“What would happen if there was no one working on the frontline?”
Some 44 percent of the 42,600 cases nationwide — and the majority of more than 1,100 deaths — have been in Wuhan, home to a wild animal market where the virus is suspected of having originated before spreading between humans.
The risks medical staff are facing was highlighted on Friday after Li Wenliang, a whistleblowing doctor in Wuhan, succumbed to the disease more than a month after he first raised alarm about a new SARS-like virus in the city.
His death unleashed an outpouring of grief and anger on Chinese social media, with 10 academics in Wuhan circulating an open letter calling for political reform and freedom of speech.