China using traditional Chinese medicine on coronavirus patients

Medical workers preparing traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) on Feb 5, 2020, at a TCM hospital in Binzhou, Shandong province, China. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - China is administering its centuries-old traditional medicine on patients affected by the coronavirus disease, a top health official said.

Treatment in Wuhan hospitals combine traditional Chinese medicine, popularly known as TCM, and western medicines, said Mr Wang Hesheng, the new health commission head in Hubei, the province at the centre of the virus outbreak.

He said TCM was applied on more than half of confirmed cases in Hubei.

"Our efforts have shown some good result," Mr Wang said at a press conference on Saturday (Feb 15), without elaborating.

Top TCM experts have been sent to Hubei for "research and treatment", he said.

No drugs or preventives have yet been approved against the virus, which has already claimed the lives of 1,523 people in China and affected about 66,500 people.

Just weeks into the epidemic of the coronavirus, reports of treatments and vaccines against those infected have caused pockets of excitement.

The first reported use of an experimental Gilead Sciences drug to fight the coronavirus has encouraged doctors to support further testing of the medication.

Some 2,200 TCM workers have been sent to Hubei, Mr Wang said.

Mr Wang is one of the officials at the forefront of an effort by Beijing to reset its approach to the epidemic, after anger grew across China at a lack of transparency throughout the crisis that has shut down large swathes of the economy.

Earlier this week, China sacked the top leadership in the embattled province, including Mr Wang's predecessor.

Mr Wang, who is also deputy head of the National Health Commission, was appointed a member of Hubei's standing committee, the province's top decision-making body.

Days after his appointment, Hubei announced a shock adjustment in its method of counting infections to include those diagnosed with CT scans, a move that added nearly 15,000 cases to Hubei's total count and dashed hopes the epidemic was coming under control.

Hubei has been decimated by the crisis and its medical facilities are at breaking point. While thousands of doctors have been sent from around China to the province to help and two new hospitals were built in a matter of days, it is still struggling with a shortage of supplies and medical staff.

There are widespread reports of deaths in Hubei that could have been prevented, but weren't due to a lack of adequate medical care.

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