The Chinese province of Hebei announced it was shifting to “wartime mode” against an outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus and locked down travel between its capital Shijiazhuang and the nearby city of Beijing on Wednesday.
“Hebei reported 20 new confirmed COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] cases and 43 asymptomatic cases on Tuesday, making it the place with the most daily newly added cases in China. Among all the cases, 19 confirmed ones and 41 asymptomatic ones are from Shijiazhuang,” China’s state-run Global Times reported. Shijiazhuang has a population of about 11 million.
The emergency restrictions imposed on Shijiazhuang included “controls on highways passing through Hebei leading to Beijing and other provinces, stopping sales of railway tickets to Beijing, suspending classes in schools, implementing closed-off managements in residential communities in provincial capital Shijiazhuang, and taking sweeping nucleic acid tests.”
Ten highways linking the Hebei capital to Beijing and other cities were placed under enhanced “controls,” including highway police urging drivers heading both to and from Shijiazhuang to turn back. Railway and bus travel also appear to have been halted.
The Gaocheng district of Shijiazhuang was designated a “high-risk area” for the coronavirus, while three districts of another city in Hebei province, Nangong, were classified as “medium-risk areas.” Schools have been closed across Shijiazhuang until further notice.
The Global Times emphasized that Shijiazhuang is not being placed under a “total lockdown” as Wuhan was during the outbreak, but is implementing “rare strict overall prevention measures against Covid-19.”
Parts of Nangong and another city called Xingtai, however, are said to have “taken temporary closed-off management measures,” which sounds very much like a total lockdown.
“The current situation is tense, as staff turnover within the province is high … Some residents seemed to be worried and are waiting at home for the nucleic acid tests,” a Xingtai official told the Global Times.
Hubei province was making a major effort to win back tourism before the latest coronavirus outbreak, including the publication of a “Service With a Smile” handbook that gave employees of the tourism industry detailed instructions on how to make guests feel welcome while remaining socially distanced.
CNBC on Thursday quoted Chinese health officials admitting the coronavirus has been spreading in Hebei for longer than previously believed and suggesting that it might be a strain of the disease imported from Russia.