Kill or cure

Some of the efforts to combat the coronavirus have done more harm than good


Xi Jinping was in Wuhan last week, with the infection rate falling

There is no direct equivalent in the Chinese language for the English proverb “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions”.

But if there were a similar phrase, a few instances from China’s coronavirus containment campaign would qualify as fine examples.

The first was the case of an office worker from Suzhou in Jiangsu province. Fearing a resurgence of Covid-19 when he returned to work last month he decided to sluice his office down with bleach.

But the smell from the bleaching agent was so strong that he decided to dilute it by spraying some surgical spirit – a combination that can produce a variant of chloroform. In Sun’s case, however, his office simply went up in flames after a faulty extension cable sparked the chemical mix into life. Pictures posted online show how his whole office was engulfed, with ceilings, walls and furniture all charred to a crisp. Luckily no one was hurt.

Sadly, the same can’t be said for an incident at the township of Huangmei in Hubei, where the village chief thought that a batch of chlorine dioxide tablets – intended to keep surfaces clean – was oral medicine. Villagers were instructed to take one tablet each. They soon fell sick and 22 people were admitted to hospital, although all eventually recovered and were discharged.

In Chongqing, overuse of disinfectants on highways and rural roads is also thought to be behind a sudden surge in the number of dead animals encountered by the local forestry bureau. It put out a warning that the chemicals could do serious harm to local residents, farm animals and agricultural crops.

Lastly, a woman in Hubei was killed when she rode her electric bike through a village blockade designed ‘to stop ‘outsiders’ from entering. She was travelling to a nearby town to sell vegetables but she failed to see steel wire stretched out across the road as a way of preventing access. The woman was knocked off her three-wheeler bike and died on the spot, Red Star News reported.

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