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Photos: Inside China’s Fight to Stop COVID-19

Tens of millions of people remain under lockdown in China as doctors and nurses work tirelessly to fight COVID-19, a virus that has now reached every corner of the world. Here’s what that battle looks like from the inside.

By Scott Latta

On December 31, 2019, Chinese officials notified the World Health Organization that there were several cases of an unusual illness in Wuhan, a port city on the Yangtze River. They didn’t know it, but the virus was COVID-19, a deadly new coronavirus that would soon infect 1 million people around the world.

COVID-19 has now been confirmed on every continent except Antarctica — but before the virus spread around the world, the first wave was felt in China, where millions of people were put under a travel lockdown to stop its spread. And no one was under more pressure to stop it than the doctors and nurses inside the country’s hospitals.

Project HOPE team members in China are living and working on the front lines of the virus, helping distribute badly needed personal protective gear to hospitals across the country. Here’s what that fight looks like.

Doctor in protective scrubs looks at self in mirror.
A health worker adjusts her protective gear in the Shanghai Children’s Medical Center isolation unit, which monitors patients suspected of having COVID-19. Photo by PH Staff, Wuhan, China, 2020.
Doctors surround the bed of a sick patient.
Doctors in Wuhan care for a coronavirus patient. Photo by PH Staff, Wuhan, China, 2020.
Patient checks in at a hospital with face mask on.
A man seeks treatment in a crowded hospital in Shanghai. Photo by PH Staff, Shanghai, China, February 2020.
Doctors wearing protective gear give thumps up sign.
Staff in Hubei’s Xinhua Hospital pose in protective gear delivered by Project HOPE. HOPE has shipped more than 4.5 million pieces of personal protective equipment to hospitals in China. Photo by PH Staff, February 2020.

“Because Shanghai is far away from Wuhan, everything seemed to be under control at the beginning,” says Dr. Yuan, a respiratory pediatrician at Shanghai Children’s Medical Center. “But on January 20, meetings were held in the hospital: doctors were told to pay more attention to patients with fever who came from Wuhan, and the isolation clinic was built. At that time, I realized this would be a terrible problem.”

As it became clear that China was the epicenter of a major outbreak, Project HOPE began rushing personal protective equipment to hospitals inside the country, donated by our partners MAP International, MedShare, and Latter-day Saint Charities.

HOPE has a long history of training and equipping health care workers in China, including the founding of the HOPE School of Nursing in Wuhan. Many of the nurses working on the frontlines of the virus today are graduates of the HOPE nursing school, which has grown to become one of the premier nurse training schools in China.

Since the virus broke out, HOPE has distributed over 4.5 million pieces of protective equipment including respirator masks, gloves, protective suits, and goggles. That gear is now in use where it’s needed most — including hospital corridors and operating rooms in Wuhan, just minutes away from where the virus first broke out.

Doctor wearing protective gear inspects a package.
A health worker inspects a shipment of personal protective gear at Shanghai Children’s Medical Center. Photo by PH Staff, Shanghai, China, February 2020.
People upload a shipment in a warehouse.
Workers in Shanghai unload a shipment of badly needed protective gear, including 9,000 face masks and 1,875 protective suits. Photo by PH Staff, Shanghai, China, February 2020.
Nurses wearing protective masks distribute masks to others in a hospital.
Project HOPE team members distribute masks to hospital workers at the Shanghai Children’s Medical Center. Photo by PH Staff, Shanghai, China, February 2020.

As the virus continues to spread unabated, the fight to contain it has been accelerated to almost incomprehensible speeds. Two hospitals in Wuhan were constructed in a matter of days, while a vaccine for the virus was developed in record time and will be ready for human testing in April.

Health officials around the world, meanwhile, are bracing for an epidemic and stockpiling equipment in hospitals.

“People are feeling fear and anxiety,” Dr. Yuan says. “The virus spread very quickly, and the number of infected cases increased day by day. It seems that it’s very easy to get infected by virus carriers, and what’s worse is that some of the carriers may show no symptoms. It’s not safe anymore to hang out, so people stay at home. But staying in a small place for a long time can also make people sick. Many people feel very anxious.”

While it’s yet to be seen how far COVID-19 will spread, what’s happening in China is a preview of what the battle to stop the virus may look like — and the incredible bravery of the doctors and nurses working to stop it.

“The thing we need most is enough personal protective equipment, such as surgical masks, N95 masks, goggles, and disinfectant,” Dr. Yuan says. “Those things may protect us from catching coronavirus, and they are consumed very quickly. We are very grateful to Project HOPE and LDS for donating the protective equipment to our hospital.”

Doctors holding a thank you sign in front of donated supplies.
Hospital workers in Shanghai pose with protective gear. Photo courtesy of Shanghai Children’s Medical Center, Shanghai, China, February 2020.

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