Coronavirus Forces China to Lock Down over 100 Million People

Even an authoritarian government has only a small timeframe in which trapped residents will submit to the lockdown, experts say
Noel Celis/AFP

The new coronavirus outbreak in northeastern China, originally dismissed as a minor spate of mostly foreign infections that should not distract from China’s total victory over the Wuhan virus, has grown until 108 million people are under lockdown in the region, according to Bloomberg.

The Hill noted that draconian measures have been imposed and heads have rolled, even though the affected province, Jilin, supposedly only has about three dozen coronavirus cases and one death:

Government officials throughout the province have stopped buses and trains from going in and out of the region, and schools have been shut down. Tens of thousands of people are also being quarantined, according to Bloomberg News. 

On Monday, government officials from Shulan, a city in the province, said it would impose its strictest restrictions yet to try to contain the outbreak, including closing off residential compounds with confirmed and suspected cases. Officials would also allow only one person from each family to leave to buy essential supplies for two hours every two days, according to Bloomberg. 

The highest-ranking Communist Party official in Shulan was removed along with five other government officials as a result of the new outbreak. 

The Epoch Timequoted Jilin residents who said the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is once again undercounting coronavirus victims to make itself look better and the true number of cases includes an alarming number of doctors and medical staffers. 

Several of these correspondents said they personally knew coronavirus patients who have not been counted in official government reports. One spoke of seeing “a fleet of more than ten vehicles” rolling through his neighborhood and dropping off “dozens of people dressed in protective suits” who herded crowds of residents into quarantine centers.

Qiu Haibo, a doctor who belongs to China’s National Health Commission team of coronavirus experts, said on Tuesday that the epidemic in Jilin and neighboring Heilongjiang provinces is behaving differently than the Wuhan strain of the coronavirus did.

Qiu said the virus has a longer incubation period in the new outbreak, which “causes a problem, as they don’t have any symptoms, so when they gather with their families they don’t care about this issue and we see family cluster infections.”

According to Qiu, the northeastern patients also remain infected for longer, take longer to recover, and are less likely to run a fever, which has long been seen as one of the most obvious signs of infection. He saw these differences as evidence the new outbreak was imported from beyond China’s borders, and while he did not speculate on its origin, other Chinese officials have pointed to Russia, which has a huge coronavirus outbreak and borders on Jilin and Heilongjiang.

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