China Places Over 22 Million on Lockdown Amid New Covid Wave

China Places Over 22 Million on Lockdown Amid New Covid Wave

2021-01-14 07:30:41

When a handful of new cases of coronavirus occurred in a province around Beijing this month – apparently spread at a village wedding – Chinese authorities took action.

They closed two cities with more than 17 million people, Shijiazhuang and Xingtai. They ordered a crash test regime for almost every resident there, which was completed within days.

They cut off transportation and canceled weddings, funerals and, most importantly, a provincial Communist Party conference.

By this week, the lockdowns spread to another city on the outskirts of Beijing, Langfang, as well as a province in Heilongjiang, a northeastern province. Also in Beijing itself, the Chinese capital, ditches were closed.

The outbreaks, which came with minimal cases after so long, have heightened concern in China, where residents in most places felt that the pandemic was a thing of the past.

New cases have also been reported in northern Shanxi province and northeastern Heilongjiang and Jilin provinces. Shanghai on Wednesday called on residents not to leave the city, announcing that people who had traveled to high-risk areas should quarantine themselves at home for two weeks and leave after two tests, while those who traveled to the most high-risk areas , were quarantined in government facilities.

Rumors circulated in Wuhan that the city would face another lockdown; although those seemed unfounded, officials in some streets were noticeably tightening up temperature controls.

In Shunyi, a district in northeast Beijing that includes Beijing Capital International Airport as well as rural villages, residents have been ordered to stay indoors since a spate of cases just before the new year. At Beijing's main train stations, workers sprayed public areas with disinfectant.

After a Beijing taxi driver tested positive over the weekend, authorities tracked down 144 passengers for additional tests The Global Times, a state tabloid. Now anyone who gets into a taxi or car service in Beijing must scan a QR code from their phone so that the government can quickly trace them.

The government has planned to vaccinate 50 million people in the run-up to next month's Lunar New Year, a holiday on which hundreds of millions of people traditionally travel across the country to visit their families. More than 10 million doses were distributed on Wednesday.

Even with the vaccinations, officials have warned people not to travel for the holidays.

"These measures, if properly implemented, can ensure that there is no large-scale epidemic upsurge," said Feng Zijian, deputy director of China's Center for Disease Control, at a briefing in Beijing on Wednesday.

While millions of people have been affected by the new restrictions, there does not seem to be any significant public resistance to them.

“As far as I'm concerned, I think measures like a city-wide lockdown are actually pretty good,” said Zhao Zhengyu, a Beijing university student who is now locked up in her parents' house in Shijiazhuang, where she visited during a winter break when the outbreak broke out there.

Many in the city feared a repeat of Wuhan & # 39; s lockdown, but she sounded unfazed.

Ms. Zhao's parents now work from home and only get groceries from a market in their housing complex. She regretted not being able to meet friends or study in the library, but said online learning has become routine.

& # 39; Maybe we've gotten used to it, & # 39; she said.

The response underscored how quickly the government is mobilizing its resources to contain outbreaks.

After the lockdown was announced in Shijiazhuang on January 6, authorities collected more than 10 million coronavirus test samples over the next three days – nearly one for each resident, officials said a press conference in the city. Those tests yielded 354 positive results, although some cases were asymptomatic.

A second round of massive nucleic acid tests began Tuesday.

"In fact, this is a kind of war system – it uses the resources of wartime for social control in peacetime – and this war system works during a pandemic," said Chen Min, a writer and former newspaper editor known by the pseudonym Xiao. Shu. Mr. Chen was in Wuhan last year when the city was shut down.

The nature of the country's governance gave it the means to deal with the epidemic – even though some of the measures seemed excessive.

"Chinese cities enforce a housing system – smaller ones have hundreds of residents, big ones have tens of thousands – and by closing the gates you can lock tens of thousands of people," said Mr. Chen in a telephone interview. "Whenever they come across these kinds of problems, they will certainly apply this method. That would be impossible in Western countries."

Chris Buckley and Keith Bradsher contributed to the reporting. Claire Fu contributed research.


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