“Xiaoya” was among the first to be quarantined on Nov. 16 in a makeshift hospital converted from a stadium in the southernmost Nansha district of Guangzhou, a major commercial hub in the south of China.
On Nov. 18, only two days after she was locked in the facility, a fellow villager found her body hanging in a bathroom, according to the report.
Caixin’s report has been removed from its website and from Sina, the only Chinese online news portal that reposted Caixin’s report.
The woman’s real name is not known to the public. Caixin used Xiaoya as her alias.
Xiaoya told the villager quarantined with her that she wasn’t going back to her hometown for the Chinese New Year, as she was afraid of “gossip of the villagers,” according to Caixin.
The suicide victim’s husband, Zheng Yu (a pseudonym used by Caixin), cried when he was taken to see his wife for the last time: “This is not a serious disease, why did you take it so hard?”
Zheng, because of his close contact with his wife, was taken to a makeshift quarantine facility in Conghua district on the northern outskirts of Guangzhou on Nov. 15, one day before Xiaoya was taken away from their rental residence in Haizhu district.
Haizhu district is in the south of Guangzhou. There are large urban villages in its jurisdiction, and most of the residents are migrant workers from Hubei, Hunan, and rural regions of Guangdong Province.
The district was the hardest-hit area in this recent wave of the pandemic. Nearly 95 percent of the cases reported on Nov. 14 were found in Haizhu district, according to state-run media People’s Daily.
Video footage shows that Xiaoya had been pacing all night in the hall where she was isolated. Zheng told Caixin that Xiaoya called his cousin on the night of Nov. 17, saying that she was scared of being infected with COVID. She cried on the phone, Zheng told Caixin.
A medical staffer working in the Nansha facility confirmed Xiaoya’s death to Caixin on Nov. 23.
The couple has two children, ages 9 and 5, who live with their grandparents in their hometown in Hubei.
Caixin’s report has been archived by China Digital Times.
Panic Kills: Expert
China has been implementing stringent lockdown measures and massive PCR testing while the rest of the world has learned to live with COVID.
Jin Dongyan, a virologist at the University of Hong Kong School of Biomedical Sciences, told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) in an exclusive interview: “Viruses don’t kill; panic kills.”
In China, people who test positive for COVID and their close contacts are forced into isolation in makeshift quarantine facilities. Jin noted that many Chinese are afraid of being pulled into such facilities or makeshift hospitals, where conditions are poor.
“Many [isolated] people actually don’t need [medical] treatment. What they need are a psychologist and psychological treatment,” Jin told DW. “If it is not handled well, the situation will be that viruses don’t kill, but panic kills.”
Guangzhou Builds More Makeshift Quarantine Facilities
Guangzhou has been building numerous quarantine facilities, according to a Chinese news portal Yicai.
Wang Baosen, deputy director and spokesperson of the Guangzhou municipal housing and urban-rural development bureau, said at a press conference on Nov. 17 that the municipal government has plans for the construction of quarantine facilities with a total capacity of 246,407 beds.
“Guangzhou has been strengthening its overall reserves of resources and has accelerated the construction of makeshift hospitals and isolation facilities,” said Wang at the press conference.
The recent flareup in Guangzhou started on Oct. 22. According to Caixin, as of Nov. 22, a total of more than 98,000 COVID cases—most of which were asymptomatic—had been reported.
The patients are found mainly in densely populated urban villages in Haizhu district.
Xiaoya and her husband lived in Shangchong Village, Nanzhou Subdistrict, where serious clusters of epidemics have occurred, according to Caixin.
Xia Song contributed to this report.