Covid patients face layoffs, pay cuts in Wuhan as pandemic trauma persists

By Javier García

Wuhan, China, Jan 25 (efe-epa).- Many of the residents in the Chinese city of Wuhan who contracted the new coronavirus have to not only struggle with the many possible aftereffects of the disease, but have also faced social and workplace discrimination, leading to feelings of shame and other self-esteem issues.

Psychologists in the city, the first to be struck by the pandemic, came across the patients’ bitter experience after the lockdown was lifted on Apr. 8, and continue to treat it even now, a year after the initial outbreak.

Psychotherapist Li Geng, who has volunteered for treating hundreds of Wuhan residents since the beginning of the lockdown, told EFE that even now the fear of being reinfected by the disease was present in those who had recovered from it

“They are traumatized, ashamed and suffer problems such as a major lack of confidence and low self-esteem,” said the young expert, who has constantly been busy helping people during the lockdown and even after May, when the pandemic was controlled and infections brought down to zero.

Li mentioned multiple examples of people of different age groups who had to face serious discrimination after recovering from Covid, including that of a middle-aged man who was fired from a well-paying job after being discharged from the hospital.

In another case, a 40-year-old executive at a furniture factory who used to earn 20,000 yuan ($3,090) per month, was offered a choice between accepting a salary of 2,000 yuan for doing the same work or facing a layoff after recovering from Covid-19.

“There are people who, although now testing negative, are not so well in their health and need to rest and not work, but there are others who have been cured completely and are still being discriminated all the same. It’s a shame because the whole world is suffering from the pandemic,” Li said.

Although the rejection of those who contracted the virus is not universal in the city, it can be found in a “significant proportion” said the psychologist, who still often works with people facing this situation along with her colleagues.

“We accompany them and provide them psychological advice, helping them overcome the feeling of shame, trying to infuse them with courage, even if they cannot work, so that they can live a good life,” she said, adding that the government and other social organizations were also helping them.

Li, who works with a nonprofit of psychologists with whom she shares her conclusions, said that it was difficult to find someone in Wuhan who spoke openly about what happened during the first few days after Jan. 23, the worst period of the pandemic in the city.

“The inhabitants of the city have a major horror in the back of their heart, which will affect the entire life of our generation. They don’t express it but feel it deep inside,” she said.

The psychologist said it was difficult to say until when this trauma would last.

“It’s in our subconsciousness, how post-traumatic stress affects our future life.”

A study by Chinese experts published on Nov. 12 concluded that after the lockdown was eased in early April, 56 percent of the residents of Wuhan, capital of the central Hubei province, said they were suffering from symptoms of anxiety, 47.9 percent complained of depression and 16.2 percent of post-traumatic stress disorder.

A similar percentage of health workers also displayed these symptoms once the quarantine measures were lifted.

“Some doctors and nurses dreaded recalling the terrible moments they had lived through,” Li said.

Some articles published in local media recently said that Wuhan residents had considerably increased food purchases from shops and supermarkets after finding out about fresh outbreaks of the new coronavirus in northern China, the worst since March 2020.

This could be another sign of the residents continuing to be worried about pandemic, although they have denied being afraid of its return while talking with journalists.

It is as if the city continues to hide an open wound as it seems better to not touch it to prevent oozing, a necessary step before healing.

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