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Photo: Global Times

Nurses pushed to the brink fighting coronavirus, faces tell the story

Nurses fighting the deadly coronavirus across China are exhausted, low on supplies and taking to social media to show the physical sacrifices they have made to combat the crisis.

Pictures have emerged on social media of nurses with deep facial marking and sores from their masks and the stringent safety measures being taken in hospitals in affected areas.

There have been reports of doctors and nurses working around the clock and sleeping on hospital floors as they try to get a hold on the epidemic that is now estimated to have infected 40,554 people globally, 40,235 of those cases in China alone.

As of February 5, there were 319 confirmed cases outside of China and 909 deaths globally. The World Health Organization rates the epidemic risk level as very high for China and high for the rest of the world but it has yet to be classed as a pandemic.

Anger at Government response

In a country not known for civil unrest, locals are now questioning the government response to the outbreak.

A cleaner at Wuhan's Pulmonary Hospital, speaking to the Al Jazeera network, said that the reporting by state news outlets – which showed images of residents happy and proclaiming their faith in the communist party – was in stark contrast to conditions in Hubei province.

"Are you seeing the news? Are they serious?" he recalled telling his son. "Doctors and nurses at my hospital are so exhausted that they are on the edge of breaking down. And those people who look so happy on camera – are they living in a different universe?"

The Chinese government has been accused of being slow to react to the crisis, as well as withholding information. Human Rights Watch said the government has arrested and harassed people for spreading information about the virus including a doctor, who himself contracted the virus, for trying to warn friends about the then unknown illness way back on December 30.

Meanwhile, NPR reports that nurses from neighbouring Hong Kong have threatened to go on strike if the borders with mainland China are not shut to protect Hong Kong’s 7 million inhabitants from the virus.

So far in Australia there have been 15 confirmed cases, although five of those have now recovered with the rest in a stable condtiion.

The Australian College of Nursing Chief executive Kylie Ward said Australian nurses are well prepared to be the frontline defence against any disease Australia faces.

“While this coronavirus is new, nurses are trained to deal with infectious diseases and are ready to support Australians just as they always have and always will,” she said. “This is business as usual for our nurses.

“We have already seen stories emerging of nurses meeting planes to check passengers for symptoms. Nurses’ contribution to Australia’s response to this novel coronavirus will cover all aspects including care, leadership and research.

“This is the Year of the Nurse & Midwife. During this crisis we are reminded of how important nurses are to health care in Australia and around the world and why they are the most trusted profession. During our worst of times, nurses are here for us all,” Ward said.

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