China’s President Xi Jinping called Wednesday for greater protection of medical staff fighting the new coronavirus after the deaths of prominent doctors sparked national anger at the government’s handling of the outbreak.
At least seven medical workers have died from the virus, while 1,716 have been confirmed as infected, most at the epicentre of the epidemic in central Hubei province where hospitals have dealt with a huge influx of patients.
Staff have faced shortages of masks and protective bodysuits, with some even wearing makeshift suits and continuing to work despite showing respiratory symptoms, health workers have told AFP.
Xi said China must “strengthen efforts to relieve the stress of medical workers, provide them with daily necessities, arrange time for their rest and give them encouragement”, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Liu Zhiming, the director of Wuchang Hospital in Hubei’s capital Wuhan, died Tuesday, more than a week after the death of whistleblowing ophthalmologist Li Wenliang in the same city prompted nationwide mourning and calls for political reforms.
– ‘Majestic spirit’ –
A paper published by China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention said an additional 1,300 health workers may have been infected but have yet to receive a diagnosis.
Xi said China must ensure medical teams in Hubei and Wuhan “carry out work in a safe, orderly, coordinated, effective and swift manner”, Xinhua reported.
The deaths of frontline medical workers “reflected doctors’ humane and majestic spirit”, Xi said.
The death toll from the virus jumped past 2,000 on Wednesday, while 74,185 cases of infection have been confirmed in mainland China.