When several new coronavirus cases occurred in a province around Beijing this month (apparently at a rural wedding, which has spread), the Chinese authorities began to take action.
They targeted Shijiazhuang and Xingtai, two cities with a population of more than 17 million. They ordered the crash test system for almost all local residents to be completed within a few days.
They closed traffic, cancelled weddings, funerals, and most importantly, cancelled provincial party committee meetings.
As of this week, the blockade has been expanded to include another city on the edge of Beijing, Langfang, and a county in Heilongjiang Province in northeastern province. The area of the Chinese capital Beijing itself was also closed.
Compared with the damage suffered by other countries, the outbreaks are still small, but they threaten to weaken the country’s Communist Party’s success in containing the virus, allowing the country’s economy to quickly rebound after last year’s downturn and its people Back to the predicament. Normal life.
The urgency of the government’s current response is in stark contrast to the urgency of Wuhan officials last year. Wuhan officials feared that if the mysterious new disease that was emerging at the time was revealed, it would cause a strong response. Despite knowing the risk of the disease in human-to-human transmission, local officials there held a Communist Party meeting like the one now cancelled in Hebei.
Since Wuhan, the authorities have written a script to mobilize party cadres to quickly respond to new outbreaks by blocking communities, conducting extensive tests and isolating large groups when needed.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said in his speech: “One of the key points in the prevention and control of infectious diseases is to find the truth from the facts and to spread epidemic information openly and transparently. It must not be covered up or under-reported.” The State Council said on Friday. The Chinese cabinet meets.
According to the New York Times database, China, a country with a population of 1.4 billion, reported an average of 109 new cases every day in the past week. In those countries where the situation is much worse, these numbers will be encouraging numbers, including the United States, which has an average of 250,000 new cases per day, but this is the worst number in China since last summer.
The National Health Commission of China has not reported any new deaths, but the World Health Organization, which uses information from China, has recorded 12 cases so far in 2021. The National Health Commission did not respond to any request to explain this difference.
In Hebei, where the new epidemic has concentrated, officials announced a “wartime state” last week, and there is no sign of lifting it.
Throughout the pandemic, officials seemed particularly worried about Beijing, the seat of the Communist Party’s central leadership. Last week, Hebei Provincial Party Committee Secretary Wang Dongfeng vowed to ensure that the province is “a moat for maintaining Beijing’s political security.”
The epidemic lasted for a short time and the number of cases was very small, but it increased anxiety across China. Residents in most places believed that the pandemic was over.
New cases have also been reported in Shanxi province in the north and Heilongjiang and Jilin provinces in the northeast. Shanghai on Wednesday urged residents not to leave the city and announced that people traveling to dangerous areas should be quarantined at home for two weeks and can only leave after passing two tests, while those traveling to high-risk areas face isolation. Government facilities.
In Wuhan, rumors have spread and the city may face a new blockade. Although these seem unfounded, officials have obviously stepped up temperature checks on certain streets.
In the Shunyi area of northeast Beijing, including the Beijing Capital International Airport and the village, residents were ordered to stay inside due to the surge in cases before the New Year. At the main railway station in Beijing, workers sprayed disinfectant into public places.
According to a report by the state tabloid Global Times, after the taxi driver had a positive test at the weekend in Beijing, the authorities tracked down 144 passengers for further testing. Now, anyone taking a taxi or car service in Beijing must scan a QR code with their mobile phone so that the government can quickly track it.
The government has adopted a plan to vaccinate 50 million people before the Lunar New Year next month. This holiday traditionally has thousands of people visiting their families across the country. By Wednesday, more than ten million doses had been distributed.
Even with the vaccine, officials have warned people not to travel before the holidays.
Feng Zijian, deputy director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a briefing in Beijing on Wednesday: “These measures, if implemented properly, can ensure that there will be no large-scale epidemic rebound.”
Although the new restrictions have caused inconvenience to millions of people, there does not seem to be strong public resistance to these restrictions.
“As far as I am concerned, I think measures like the lockdown of the entire city are actually quite good,” said Zhao Zhengyu, a university student in Beijing who is now restricted to her parents’ home in Shijiazhuang. There is a winter break during the outbreak.
Many people in this city worry that Wuhan will be locked down again, but she doesn’t sound shaken.
Ms. Zhao’s parents now work at home and can only buy groceries in the market in her residential area. She lamented that she could not meet friends or study in the library, but she said that online learning has become a daily job.
She said: “Maybe we are used to it.”
The response emphasized the government’s mobilization of resources to contain the speed of the outbreak.
On January 6, after Shijiazhuang announced the blockade, the authorities collected more than 10 million coronavirus test samples in the next three days, almost one for every resident. These tests yielded 354 positive results, although some cases were asymptomatic.
The second round of large-scale nucleic acid testing began on Tuesday.
“Actually, this is a wartime system that uses wartime methods for social control in peacetime. During a pandemic, this wartime system is effective,” said Chen Min, a writer and former newspaper editor, whose pen name is Xiao Shu last year, when the city entered a lockdown state, Mr. Chen was in Wuhan.
The nature of the country’s governance provides it with tools to deal with this epidemic-even if some of the measures seem to be the most important.
Mr. Chen said in a telephone interview: “China’s cities have a resident system. Smaller cities have hundreds of residents, and larger cities have thousands. By closing the door, you can lock in thousands of people. “Now, whenever they encounter such problems, they will definitely adopt this method. This is impossible in Western countries.”
Chris Buckley and Keith Bradsher contributed reports. Claire Fu contributed research.