Jia county in China’s central province of Henan went into complete lockdown on Tuesday, even as the central government in Beijing insists the coronavirus is under control and virtually no local infections are occurring.
The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported on Wednesday that Jia county, with a population of about 640,000, imposed “curfew-like measures” and began requiring special permission for residents to leave their homes. Residents were required to wear masks and get their temperatures taken even if they obtain permission to leave home. Local officials told people to stock up on food and expect prolonged isolation.
“All businesses have been shut down, except utilities, medical suppliers, logistics companies and food processing firms. All shops except supermarkets, hospitals, food markets, petrol stations, pharmacies and hotels have been closed. In addition, only people with special permits can go to work and cars can only be used on alternate days, depending on their plate number,” the SCMP reported.
“It’s better not to come to Jia county now. Nobody can enter or leave,” one county official said.
“Previously no one knew what happened as there were rumors flying around of people have been infected and no one dared to go out. Now, we know that the doctors were sick but our daily life has been affected,” said a local businessman worried about the return of the coronavirus lockdown.
According to local media, the lockdown was imposed because the county hospital reported three cases of coronavirus infection over the weekend linked to a doctor who had traveled to Wuhan to assist with the outbreak there.
The doctor completed two weeks of self-isolation upon returning to his post at the Jia hospital, and displayed no signs of illness, but still infected two of his co-workers and a former classmate while having dinner with them.
All of their infections went unreported until now because the Chinese government did not begin disclosing asymptomatic cases of infection until this week, after heavy criticism from around the world for its lack of transparency. The 59-year-old woman who evidently contracted the coronavirus from the Jia doctor and became visibly sick came into contact with him during a professional visit before he was placed into quarantine.
Henan province, where Jia county is located, is north of Hubei province and the city of Wuhan. Henan was only reporting a dozen coronavirus patients total as of Wednesday. The Chinese central government claimed the entire country only had 36 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, and 35 of them were “imported” from other countries. The only new infection reported in Henan province outside of Jia was a person who came into contact with two of the Jia doctors who tested positive.