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A doctor in the Chinese city of Wuhan said thousands of patients were waiting for hours to see doctors amid the deadly coronavirus outbreak, though doctors have been advised not to come into work for fear of catching the virus.
The unnamed Wuhan doctor spoke with the BBC and discussed what conditions were like for medical workers in the city under lockdown.
The doctor told BBC News that the actual number of infected people was “probably higher” than what had been reported.
Another unnamed doctor told the South China Morning Post that medical workers were catching the virus because they lacked information and protective gear.
As of Friday morning, the disease has infected more than 830 people and killed 25.
A doctor in the central Chinese city of Wuhan said thousands of patients were waiting for hours to see doctors.
BBC News declined to identify the doctor to protect her identity.
The new coronavirus can pass from human to human, and it had infected at least 830 people and killed 25 as of Friday morning.
As a precaution, the entire city of Wuhan and the nearby cities of Huanggang and Ezhou have been locked down in an unprecedented quarantine against the disease, affecting about 23 million people.
The doctor told BBC News that scores of citizens had lined up at Wuhan hospitals in panic.
“The hospitals have been flooding with patients, there are thousands, I haven’t seen so many before,” the doctor said. “I am scared because this is a new virus and the figures are alarming.”
AP Photo/Dake Kang
The doctor told the BBC that many people had to wait for hours before they could see a doctor and that little information was available to the public because of the novelty of the disease.
The doctor added that the typical incubation period of the virus was about seven days, meaning people could pass along the illness without showing symptoms.
“Screening is difficult because of the one-week incubation period — people may be traveling without realizing they have the virus,” the doctor said. “That means the actual figure of people infected is probably higher.”
This is a major concern for doctors on the frontlines of fighting the disease.
“It is spread through human-to-human transmission and there are also medical-staff infections,” the doctor told the BBC.
“We were told two days ago not to go to work at the hospital, because of the risk of the virus spreading,” the doctor added.
The doctor is not alone in suggesting the actual toll of the disease is higher than what has been reported.
The quick-spreading virus has fueled concerns that the Chinese government may attempt to cover up the severity of the disease as it did in 2003 during the SARS outbreak, which resulted in 774 deaths in about 30 countries.
As of Friday, there were 15 reported cases of medical workers being infected by the disease in Wuhan. But doctors told the South China Morning Post they believed the true figure was much higher.
Two sources with direct knowledge of the situation told the Post that doctors and nurses at medical centers and hospitals in Wuhan were being infected at a quicker rate than reported. One source blamed a lack of information and protective gear.
“Many were not initially informed about the potential for people-to-person transmission, and even now we don’t have enough protective gear, test kits, and other supplies,” one Wuhan doctor told the Post.
Mimi Lau, a reporter for the Post, said there had been a shortage of quick test kits for the coronavirus, which is apparently delaying diagnoses. She added that patients at Wuhan hospitals likened getting a hold of the test kits to “winning lottery tickets.”
“Definitely more than 15 medical workers are infected,” the person told the Post. The doctor also told the Post that at least one dormitory at a Wuhan hospital was being used to house quarantined medical workers.
According to the Post, the province of Hubei’s health commission confirmed on Tuesday that five medical workers in Huanggang were also infected.
But as authorities try to tackle the illness, those inside the city anxiously wait.
“I fear this is going to get worse and worse,” the doctor told the BBC. “Everyone is stuck here and can’t leave.”
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