In Coronavirus Fight, China Sidelines an Ally: Its Own People

The Red Cross Society has been slow in giving away masks and other supplies, according to analyses by people in China based on incomplete data. Buttressing those claims, the central government on Friday told it to speed up donations.

When the society did give out masks, it gave the best and the most directly to local government agencies instead of to front-line hospitals, according to its own data.

On Feb. 11, the Wuhan government’s epidemic-fighting central command, which counts top city officials among its members, received nearly 19,000 N95 medical masks, considered among the most effective in filtering particles. Union Hospital, one of Wuhan’s biggest public hospitals, received only 450. It was one of only four hospitals that received masks. On Thursday, all N95 masks went to local heath commissions. None went to hospitals.

Three Red Cross officials in Hubei were disciplined this month. The Red Cross in Wuhan said this week that it was only one part of the city’s resource supplying team and that city officials were in charge of allocating supplies.

If the Red Cross Society is a bottleneck in distributing medical supplies, the local and central governments can sometimes become obstacles in private efforts to make, buy and distribute these supplies.

The Communist Party does not trust the country’s businesses, either.

In Xiantao, a city 70 miles from Wuhan and one of the world’s biggest manufacturing centers for protective supplies, the local government shut down all but 10 of its protective-gear factories on Feb. 3.

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