After more than a year of smug lectures to the rest of the world about China’s alleged superiority at controlling the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, Chinese state media are admitting the government has no idea how the massive coronavirus outbreak that has shut down several cities began, or how it can be contained.
The Chinese Communist Party’s Global Times on Wednesday tried to lead with some positive spin about “good signs” that the latest outbreaks in Henan province are occurring in “epidemic-controlled zones” so the risk of a larger epidemic is “low.”
After waving off public discontent with harsh lockdowns and angry questions about how a supposedly vanquished disease could spread so rapidly across China, the Global Times marched out a few designated scapegoats: an enigmatic Patient Zero named “Zhang” who supposedly caused the latest outbreak in the city of Anyang by breaking coronavirus protocols even though he works for a medical testing institute, and a dozen local officials who “irresponsibly” let him get away with it.
The Global Times threw in some online rumors that “Zhang” was a saboteur who “spread the virus on purpose” or deceived government officials by falsifying his coronavirus test results, although the laboratory denied these reports.
After long months of sneering at the United States and Europe for bungling their coronavirus responses by stubbornly refusing to follow China’s lead, the regime in Beijing and its controlled media have suddenly discovered the spread of Chinese coronavirus and its variants can be a “complicated” affair:
A Beijing-based immunologist, who required anonymity, told the Global Times that nucleic acid testing is the most important link during the battle against COVID-19, so if something goes wrong in this process, the consequences will be “disastrous.”
The immunologist said that the outbreak in Henan is “more complicated” than those in Xi’an and Tianjin. He attributed the complexity to the fact that two variants, Delta and Omicron, have emerged in the province’s flare-ups, noting that this indicates at least two or even more sources were behind Henan’s outbreak. Henan on Tuesday registered 118 new confirmed domestic cases. Seven regions in the province have been rattled by COVID-19 so far.
In the face of a complicated epidemic resurgence, the Global Times found the lockdown areas in the province were further extended on Wednesday. In Huaxian, a county administered by Anyang, about 130 kilometers from Zhengzhou and 70 kilometers from Anyang, a lockdown started on Wednesday, after Anyang locked down the city.
The Global Times concluded by applauding officials in Henan for doing a good job, all things considered, and claiming citizens of the province were pleased with their response – unlike the cranky (and starving) residents of locked-down Xi’an in Shaanxi province “where the local government’s response to the outbreak has been widely criticized.”
The situation in Xi’an has not improved much after three weeks in citywide lockdown. Two of the city’s hospitals were shut down on Thursday after viral videos sparked public outrage over patients who died after being denied care.
Another video went viral on Monday, this one featuring a Xi’an woman who burst into tears while begging for food, heating supplies, and menstrual products. When the health worker said he could not help because he was not allowed to leave his post, the woman replied: “So what? Does that mean I have to bleed a river of blood?”
The Chinese Communist Party tried to contain the damage from this video by deploying a squad of male social media users to demean the woman as “dramatic” and “self-centered,” and by publishing an article in state media that accused her of “acting like a princess.” The state media article was deleted after a backlash from female readers.