A Unique Chinese Approach: Traditional Chinese Medicine Effective in Treating COVID-19

Traditional Chinese Medicine has played an important role in treating COVID-19 patients in China. As part of the socialist system’s mobilisation of all its resources to contain the epidemic, the largest number of TCM specialists – 4,900 – ever mobilised went to Wuhan at the height of the outbreak.

The focus was primarily on ensuring that mild and moderately ill patients did not progress to more severe stages and that they recovered more rapidly. But TCM is also used alongside other medicines for those in Intensive Care, and it continues to be used for the rehabilitation (see here) of those who have recovered.

I am also told by a specialist in China that TCM was used by medical staff working in Wuhan, ensuring very minimal transmission of the virus to the staff.

The article copied below was published in Xinhua News on 23 March, 2020:

Clinical observation showed that traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has proven to be effective in the treatment of over 90 percent of all confirmed COVID-19 cases on the Chinese mainland, said a TCM official on Monday.

A total of 74,187 COVID-19 patients, or 91.5 percent of the total confirmed cases on the Chinese mainland, have received TCM treatment, said Yu Yanhong, Party chief of the National Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine, at a press conference in Wuhan, capital of the hardest-hit province of Hubei.

In Hubei, TCM treatment has been given to 90.6 percent of COVID-19 patients.

All TCM prescriptions have effectively relieved symptoms, slowed the progression of the disease, improved the cure rate and reduced mortality and boosted the recovery of patients, said Yu.

Over 4,900 medics from TCM hospitals and institutions across China have been sent to aid the epidemic fight in Hubei, accounting for about 13 percent of all medics dispatched to the province.

“The scale and strength of the TCM aid team are unprecedented,” said Yu.

Zhang Boli, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said at the press conference that TCM treatment has significantly lowered the proportion of patients whose conditions turned from mild to severe.

“None of the 564 patients at the TCM-oriented temporary hospital in Wuhan saw their health condition deteriorating into severe,” said Zhang. “We have therefore applied TCM treatment to over 10,000 patients in other makeshift hospitals, and the rate of patients developing into severe conditions were substantially reduced,” said Zhang.

XuanFeiBaiDu Granule can increase the lymphocyte recovery rate by 17 percent and the clinical cure rate by 22 percent in the controlled observation, according to Huang Luqi, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

Liu Qingquan, head of the Beijing Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, said that two TCM drugs — Jinhua Qinggan Granule and Lianhua Qingwen Capsule/Granule have proven to be effective in the treatment of mild COVID-19 cases, while Xuebijing Injection can help treat inflammation and coagulation dysfunction.

Yu added that China has worked out a unique “Chinese plan” to combine traditional Chinese medicine with western medicine, and several effective TCM drugs and prescriptions have been discovered to treat the disease.

“The epidemic knows no borders, and the virus is the common enemy of mankind. China is willing to share its experiences and effective treatment methods with the world,” said Yu.

No one is left behind: 88 percent of critically ill patients now recovering in China

A signature feature of China ‘smashing the curve’ of the COVID-19 epidemic is that no one is left behind.

This including hospitalising all people who have this type of coronavirus and then locating them in a hospital (or section thereof) in terms of whether they have mild, moderate, severe or critical symptoms. At the height of the outbreak and especially in Wuhan, tens of thousands of patients were all hospitalised.

Further, the socialist system in China was able to mobilise 42,000 medical professionals from across China to go to Wuhan. These ranged from crucial nurses to leading medical academicians, and included a massive mobilisation of the military’s medical resources. Most of them have returned home now, to heroes’ welcomes (for example, see here).

However, a few hundred critically ill patients remain in Intensive Care Units. A few thousand nurses, doctors and leading medical experts (for a description of the key experts, see here) remain in Wuhan and are focused on ensuring as many patients as possible recover.

As this article points out, ‘most ICU patients had underlying conditions and have been hospitalized since January’. The approach is to develop specific programs of treatment for each patient, combining ‘Western’ and Traditional Chinese Medicines.

The result: ‘The recovery rate of patients in severe or critical condition has increased from 14 percent to 88 percent’. At the peak in Wuhan, there were 9000 patients in critical condition. Not all could be saved, since about 3000 of them died. As I write, there are 265 critically ill patients remaining. In the last 24 hours, 30 have recovered and only one has died.

Instead of capitalist eugenics, this is socialism’s ‘no one is left behind’ in action.

Which countries have the most reliable COVID-19 data?

China, Germany and Russia. A quick answer, but I have my reasons.

As for China, the tradition of recording, verifying and maintaining such records is a very old tradition indeed. The practice goes back to the time of Confucius during the Warring States period more than 2000 years ago. It is primarily a written tradition, enhanced by countless generations. But it turns on a threefold distinction: the time of chaos and disorder is when there are no records and rumour dominates; the time of moderate prosperity, health and peace (xiaokang) is when records are kept and there is high level of order within the country; the ideal is when comprehensive records are kept throughout the world and the evidence in all places is beyond dispute. Obviously, accurate records are vital for the competent and trusted functions of governance, at least within China – which is the situation now (a xiaokang society). They would of course prefer it if a similar levels were practiced throughout the world.

This is precisely what we find in Germany. When the WHO first announced – in light of rapid information from China – that the new coronavirus was a matter of global concern and that countries should immediately test, test, test, Germany did so. The country began testing comprehesively and has now achieved very accurate records, with a relatively high infection rate in absolute numbers (almost 100,000 as I write), but also a relatively low death rate – a sign of more accurate records. This is simply a practice at which the German excel: recording, verifying and archiving.

And we find it in Russia. This may surprise some in the ‘West’, since it has become a common practice to twist the odd incident in Russia into a systemic problem and cast Russia as ‘chaotic’, ‘evil’, ‘aggressive’ and so on. On the contrary, Russia too has a tradition of recording and archiving information, so much so that whole sub-disciplines of research are concerned with such practices. After all, if you are going to run a country with by far the largest landmass on earth, you need to have accurate records. One example in relation to COVID-19, Russia has followed the Chinese model very closely, using AI and ‘big data’ to observe over 200,000 people who may be suspected of having contact in some way with COVID-19. You can trust the Russian numbers.

Perhaps I could add some other countries like South Korea or city-states like Singapore (which have cultures that derive from and are thus very similar to China), but I would like to offer a comparison with Australia, in which the regime is currently boasting that the country has only a little over 5,500 COVID-19 cases.

However, there are strict guidelines for who can get a test. If you arrive from overseas or have had contact with an infected person, you can get a test – note the xeonophoic tenor here, in which threats come from across the seas. If you are a health professional and have cold or flu-like symptoms, you can also get a test.

But if you are – like me – one of the general population, you can get a test only if you have a temperature over 38 degress Celsius, or exhibit 3 of the 5 symptoms (not sure which 3). In other words, you need to be quite sick before you can get a test. Asymptomatic cases can forget it, as can those with mild symptoms – deal with them at home and the regime’s statisticians will conveniently ignore you. Too bad if you infect someone else who becomes a severe or critical case.

In other words, the statistics are doctored and suppressed by these means, so you can barely trust them. I assume this approach is replicated in other countries that follow the same inept approach.

Debunking the myth of the Wuhan seafood market, part 3: Italian medical scientists begin looking for evidence of COVID-19 months earlier

Intriguingly, this story has not been picked by the twisted perspectives of the vast majority of ‘Western’ media outlets. In Italy, some medical scientists want to investigate an earlier spike in 2019 of flu-related pneumonia deaths, seeking permission to check hospital records and exhume bodies to examine them. The distinct possibility is that the conoravirus had been circulating in Europe at least some months earlier in 2019.

The story was broached in – of all places – Reuters, although this article seeks to perpetuate the myth that COVID-19 ‘began’ in China (a version of the story that largely copies the Reuters piece appeared in New Zealand, but I have not been able to find much other material).

No, it was first detected in China due to experience with SARS and the superior Chinese testing methods. As my elder daughter, who works in medical research and clinical trials, pointed out, China is now about 20 years ahead of the ‘West’. As for Italy, the catch is – repeated in other parts of the world – that a very early patient had no connections with China at all and had not been in contact with any known person who was infected.

As one would expect, this piece of news would be picked up by the People’s Daily, which makes the connections with other research teams (as I mentioned here and here), which are increasingly clear not only that the virus ‘entered the Wuhan seafood market; it did not come out of it’, but also that it most likely has multiple origins in different parts of the world.

The China Daily piece observes: ‘researchers from Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, under the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Institute for Brain Research, sequenced the genomic data of 93 COVID-19 samples provided by 12 countries in a bid to track down the source of the infection, concluding the virus was instead imported from outside the fish market’.

As a footnote, when I discussed these developments in Italy with my elder daughter, who has a PhD in biological sciences, she was not at all surprised, since she thinks it is highly likely that the virus has been in the human population for quite some time before mutating and becoming morel lethal.


Updated calculation: COVID-19 infections in terms of percentage of population

In a previous post, I pointed out that the most accurate gauge of the COVID-19 pandemic is to assess the numbers in terms of percentage of population, rather than absolute numbers.

So here is an update, based on the numbers at the China Daily site, which are here and here. (By the way, do not trust the Johns Hopkins University site in the USA, since this site uses ‘bots’ that draw information from the internet before they are properly verified. Another reliable site is the Robert Koch Institute in Germany.)

What I do is use the percentage of infections in China (82,000) and calculate a percentage in relation to the population (1.4 billion). I then multiply the population in other countries to the same level as China and then calculate a comparable number of infections, as though each country has 1.4 billion people.

United States of America: 312,000 infections in a population of 330 million becomes, by comparison with China, 1,323,636.

Spain: 131,000 infections in a population of 47 million becomes, by comparison with China, 3,902,127.

Italy: 125,000 infections in a population of 60 million becomes, by comparison with China, 2,916,666.

Germany: 96,000 infections in a population of 84 million becomes, by comparison with China, 1.6 million.

UK: 42,500 infections in a population of 68 million becomes, by comparison with China, 875,000.

In light of these numbers, capitalist systems are failing miserably not so much to ‘flatten the curve’ (the new buzzword), but to smash the curve, as they have managed in China.

As for Australia, there is a rise of very unwelcome smugness at the relatively low numbers of infections in absolute numbers. It is coupled with a strong sense of ‘national competition’ (I guess it replaces the Olympics) and a sense that this isolated island is somehow protected from whatever evil comes from outside. But let us see how the percentages compare:

Australia: 5550 reported infections (see my next post on the unreliability of this number) in a population of 25 million becomes, by comparison with China, 310,800.

No cause for smugness here.


Two cultural shifts underway: chopsticks and facemasks

It seems as though we are – in extraordinary circumstances – witnessing two rapid cultural shifts. Under normal circumstances, cultural assumptions and practices have a remarkable inertia. But times of crisis are different.

Change 1: Social eating practices in China.

A couple of years ago, I was visiting the southern province of Guangdong. At the first welcoming meal, I found two pairs of chopsticks in front of me. One pair was red and other pair white. Seeing my puzzled look, my hosts laughed: the red pair is for serving yourself; the white pair is for eating. ‘I have not seen this before’, I said.

As I write, this Guangdong custom is increasingly becoming the standard practice across China. Eating together is a central daily activity, where major decisions are made, food appears in common dishes on the table, you chat about all sorts of things, and often consume baijiu, the Chinese spirit.

Now, as China gradually returns to normal, restaurants and eateries are open once again. But – except for Guangdong – new practices are being rolled out. To quote an article from the China Daily:

The World Federation of Chinese Catering Industry and the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade’s commercial sub-council co-released a specification on individual portions, communal dishes, and serving and personal chopsticks on March 18.

The specification states that individual diners’ food should be served to customers in separate tableware.

Each shared dish should be served with a separate pair of serving chopsticks.

And each diner should have two pair of differently colored chopsticks. One is to pluck dishes from communal dishes to place into individual bowls, and the other is for eating from individual bowls.

These are intriguing instructions, seeking to balance the highly communal nature of eating with the need for individual practices. But, as is the way in China, justification for the measures is drawn from the Chinese tradition. Already 3,000 years ago, during the Warring States Period (475-221 BC) and the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220) it seems to have been the custom to eat separately with even separate tables.

Communal eating at one higher table with chairs emerged later, during the Tang Dynasty (618-907).

A famous painting from the Song Dynasty (960-1279), called Along the River During the Qingming Festival, clearly shows such a practice:

The detail requires a bit of a search, so here is a smaller section:

Change 2: Facemasks in the ‘West’

Let me begin with another personal experience. A few weeks ago, I was involved in a workshop (now no longer possible). Since COVID-19 was spreading rapidly throughout the world, I wore a facemask for the whole time, since I have become accustomed to doing so in China when needed. The other participants gradually became used to my facemask, but one did admit it seemed to create a significant social barrier.

Ultimately, this is reason for the resistance in the ‘West’ (14 percent of the world’s population) to facemasks: it is a social, or cultural assumption. (Note that in Chinese wenming, poorly translated as ‘culture’, embraces what in English is called ‘society’). There may be ‘scientific’ reasons provided, but these boil down to misuse and lack of availability. At the most, you might wear one if you are really sick

Yet, this cultural assumption too is beginning to shift, driven by medical analysis. It has become clear that across East Asia the percentage of populations that have been infected with COVID-19 is quite low. China led the way, but you find this in other East Asian countries as well. Indeed, in places like China and South Korea, it is an offence not to wear a facemask during epidemic control.

The key is to wear the correct type of facemask for the conditions, put it on properly and use it only for as long as it is effective. For example, in Beijing I used to wear a pollution facemask, although one hardly needs to wear them there anymore. When the issue is bacterial or virological, a different, medical facemask needs to be worn, and so on.

Now, there is global scramble for facemasks, with some piracy and skulduggery involved. The WHO is beginning to recommend that facemasks, along with other measures such as hand-washing, gloves, contactless payment, disinfecting surfaces, and so on, are indeed beneficial. My wife tells me that even in the East German countryside where she is currently holed up, people are beginning to wear facemasks in the shops (she does so all the time).

In fact, I have found that wearing a facemask in Australia has an unexpected benefit: people think I have the virus! They jump back, give me more than 5 metres of space, and the woman at the post-office asked me very loudly: ‘Are you sick? Stay away from me!’

Perhaps this will not be the response when the practice becomes more common hereabouts.

As a footnote, I was actually picking up a package from the post-office that contains facemasks, from my friend in China: