Beijing Tells Residents Not to Leave Home ‘Unless Necessary’ but Denies It’s on Lockdown

BEIJING, CHINA - NOVEMBER 13: An epidemic control worker wears protective equipment as he walks by a barrier fence in the street in an area where communities have been recently locked down or under health monitoring after COVID-19 cases were recently discovered, on November 13, 2022 in Beijing, China. Though …
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Beijing health officials on Monday denied the Chinese capital has been placed under a coronavirus lockdown but nevertheless ordered residents “not to go out unless necessary, including not go to crowded places, and not go out to meals and parties,” which will doubtless leave many of them feeling locked down in all but name.

China’s state-run Global Times said the not-a-lockdown was imposed “as a response to the mounting pressure of soaring Covid-19 cases in the city,” which ostensibly included 237 new confirmed cases and 170 asymptomatic infections on Monday.

“The current round of cluster infections appeared in the capital city is not only due to the reason of strong infectiousness, fast transmission and short incubation period of the Omicron variant BF.7, a subvariant of BA.5., but also affected by an increased risk of transmission of other respiratory diseases such as influenza,” said health officials quoted by the Global Times. 

Beijing health officials said they would move many of the city’s mobile coronavirus testing units into the hard-hit Chaoyang district. Once all of the equipment has been relocated, Chaoyang residents will have nearly 2,000 testing sites at their disposal and will be forcefully encouraged to use them.

“More attention has to be paid to mass nucleic acid testing at community level in the district to accurately assess the development of the epidemic and to cut off the chain of transmission of the virus as soon as possible,” the Beijing epidemic control working group said.

Chinese officials were eager to use their two favorite new talking points when discussing the coronavirus situation in Beijing: boasting that the latest set of less ham-fisted epidemic protocols are “scientific and precise,” but should not be taken as an example of the Communist Party “lying flat,” or goofing off.

According to another Global Times report on Monday, residents of coronavirus-infected Hebei province and its capital city of Shijiazhuang are asking on social media if their authoritarian government is considering “full relaxation” of its zero-Covid policies or “lying flat,” and, of course, high-ranking bureaucrats rushed out to insist they are doing no such thing:

On Monday morning, Zhang Chaochao, the city’s Party Chief, visited Hebei Normal University to check the epidemic prevention and control work. Zhang said that the further optimization and adjustment of epidemic prevention and control measures is a concrete action to implement the recently released 20 measures to optimize COVID-19 response.

It is by no means “lying flat” or ignoring the situation, nor is it the so-called full relaxation. It is to further make the prevention and control work more scientific and accurate, resolutely control those that should be controlled, and let go of those that should be, and preventing one-size-fits-all approach, Zhang said.

On Sunday, local government issued an open letter, saying to the public that optimizing and adjusting the prevention and control measures is not to relax the prevention and control measures, let alone “lying flat.” The city government firmly adheres to putting the people and life in the first place, unswervingly implement the general strategy of “preventing import from outside and preventing rebound from inside” and resolutely preventing simplification and one-size-fits-all approach, the letter said. 

“Simplification” and “one-size-fits-all” are catchphrases for the Chinese Communist Party’s new spin that its coronavirus policies were always perfect, but some local officials might have applied them a bit too vigorously, without properly considering the needs and special qualities of each city and province.

“Local governments have also set up direct hotlines to respond to residents’ concerns and address doubts in a timely manner, making strategies more precise, measures more effective, and more satisfying and affordable to the public, sparing no effort to ensure people’s safety and health,” the Global Times reassured its readers, signaling that cities like Shijiazhuang can expect a much smoother experience than the helpless inmates of Shanghai during that city’s brutal lockdown last spring.


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