All Shi Muying wanted was to spend one last Lunar New Year holiday with her terminally ill mother. She flew back from the United Kingdom, where she lives and works, to spend the festive season in her hometown, Wuhan, a sprawling metropolis in central China.
For 24 hours a day, Shi – who is in her mid-30s – sat by her mother’s bedside in hospital, taking care of her. Around her, more and more people were getting sick from a newly identified coronavirus. But Shi wasn’t too worried.
After all, Chinese authorities were saying that the outbreak was “preventable and controllable.”
Now, three weeks after Shi arrived in China, it’s clear the outbreak is not under control. The virus has spread to every Chinese province and region, across Asia and as far away as Europe and the United States. It has infected more than 7,700 people and killed at least 170. Wuhan has been placed on an effective lockdown, almost entirely sealed off from the outside world.
On Monday, preliminary results showed Shi could also be infected with the virus.
A suspected patient of coronavirus at a community health station in Wuhan, China.
But she is more worried for her family – for her 67-year-old father who also appears to have the virus too, and for her mother who has been uprooted to what she describes as an older, inferior hospital building, to make way for the rush of coronavirus patients.
Shi, and others like her, have become victims of a public health care crisis. Over the past few days, CNN has spoken to patients, medical staff and experts who have told of delays in testing for the virus, in telling the public the true nature of the virus’ spread, and of an already overburdened health system creaking under the enormous weight of a rapidly expanding outbreak.
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