Shanghai Covid deaths rise as public questions distribution of herbal remedy

Beijing, Apr 21 (EFE).- The number of Covid-19 related deaths in Shanghai continue to creep up despite the strict and ongoing lockdown in China’s largest city, where the distribution of a traditional Chinese medicine is raising questions among its residents.

The financial hub of 25 million people on Wednesday logged 2,634 symptomatic Covid-19 infections and more than 15,000 asymptomatic cases, which Chinese officials do not class as positive cases.

The city also reported eight deaths, bringing the total number since the outbreak of the virulent Omicron variant to 25.

Despite the fact that the number of new cases fell below 20,000 (both symptomatic and asymptomatic) for the first time in 15 days, the number of deaths exceeded that of Monday and Tuesday, each with seven.

Vice Premier Sun Chunlan on Wednesday emphasized the goal of soon achieving “zero-Covid in society,” which refers to no new positive cases outside quarantine centers, hospitals and neighborhoods classified as “high risk.”

Outside of these places, 441 new cases were recorded, according to official data.

Sun, who said that the city’s fight is at a critical juncture, declared that any relaxation in anti-pandemic tasks was unacceptable.

He also insisted on the need to transfer all infected people to quarantine centers, one of the pillars of China’s zero-Covid strategy along with border closures, mass PCR testing and limits on movement where a case is detected and, at the same time, one of the most controversial requirements among the population of Shanghai due to the poor conditions of some isolation centers.

On social media networks, where some signs of discontent have been censored in recent days, it is obvious that the patience of residents is wearing thin – they have been subjected to a strict lockdown that officially began on Mar. 28 in a part of the city, and at times have had to deal with food shortages and lack of medical care.

Despite problems in the supply of food, Shanghai residents have received copious amounts of a traditional Chinese medicine commonly used to treat cold symptoms called Lianhua Qingwen, of which authorities have distributed at least 8 million boxes, according to the Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post.

This mass distribution of the herbal remedy, developed during the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003, has been criticized by some in the Chinese medical community.

“If the efficacy of Lianhua Qingwen has never been strictly proven, the mandatory dispatch would hurt the interests of people in shortage of food and drug necessities,” Rao Yi, the president of Capital Medical University in Beijing, wrote in a recent statement.

Chinese social media users have also criticized that priority was given to distributing Lianhua Qingwen, using valuable logistics, at a time when there were more pressing needs.

Other personalities, such as top epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan, have supported its consumption based on a study he led of 284 Covid-19 patients, which showed a faster recovery in those who had taken Lianhua Qingwen, but the remedy did not prove effective in preventing serious infection.

Wang Sicong, the son of Dalian Wanda Group founder Wang Jianlin, one of the richest men in China, ignited debate last week on his Weibo account (the Chinese equivalent of Twitter) over the distribution of the medicine when he reposted a video that questioned its effectiveness.

Soon after, Wang’s account, which has more than 40 million followers, was silenced by Weibo for “breaking laws and regulations.”

However, numerous users of Chinese social networks assure that the compound does work against symptoms such as fever.

“The last time I had a cold, I only took Lianhua Qingwen twice, and the fever subsided,” said a user.

Chinese health authorities have argued that traditional medicine has shown effectiveness in reducing the number of serious cases and deaths, and have included treatments such as acupuncture in national protocols for prevention and control. EFE


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