Why it’s so hard for China to promote the use of traditional remedies abroad to treat Covid-19

Why it’s so hard for China to promote the use of traditional remedies abroad to treat Covid-19

In a little-noticed announcement in April, the Hong Kong government launched a free traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) rehabilitation programme for patients recovering from the coronavirus.

The voluntary programme, covering up to 10 consultations with five doses of herbal medication prescribed during each visit, was meant to provide patients with an alternative following their discharge from hospital, as well as to foster the integration of TCM and western medicine, according to the Food and Health Bureau.

The programme has, however, done little to enhance the role of TCM practitioners in the fight against the pandemic. Not a part of the public hospital system managed by the Hospital Authority, they are not even allowed to diagnose or treat coronavirus patients.

The frustration felt by TCM practitioners in Hong Kong, which is home to about 10,000 TCM practitioners and 14,600 western medicine doctors, is another reminder of the lack of recognition for the ancient school of medicine outside mainland China. And while long-standing distrust among practitioners of modern medicine might have hamstrung wider adoption of TCM, particularly for treating Covid-19, it is a dearth of scientific proof of their efficacy that has hampered efforts by Beijing to win international recognition for its traditional remedies, according to medical experts.