Saturday, January 16, 2021

‘Political moat’: China locks down 11 million people to protect Beijing from new COVID outbreak

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China has placed the capital of Hebei province – Shijiazhuang, a city of 11 million people – under lockdown at the entrance to the city.war modeTo fight a new COVID-19 epidemic that has infected more than 300 people.

China recorded 69 new cases of the coronavirus on Saturday, double the previous day’s total. The majority of the new cases were in Hebei, which has accumulated 360 new cases in the past eight days.

Surge is the biggest peak since a group of about 300 emerged in Xinjiang at the end of last year and comes almost a year after Wuhan, the site of the original outbreak, was forced to shut down. But for Chinese political leaders in Beijing, the threat of the Hebei epidemic is literally hitting closer to home.

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Hebei surrounds Beijing and the central government is preparing to host the annual meeting of the Chinese parliament in the capital in March. Last year’s meeting was postponed for several months due to COVID-19.

With the enemy at the gates, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang effectively called on leaders in Shijiazhuang not to repeat the mistakes made in Wuhan, where officials have covered the extent of the initial outbreak for weeks.

“In the process of infectious disease prevention and control, one of the keys is to seek the truth from the facts, to openly and transparently disclose information about the epidemic, and to never allow to conceal or to under-report ”, Li said at a Friday meeting of China’s top administrator, the State Council.

According to local media, Hebei’s rulers have pledged to defend the capital, promising that the province will act as a “political divideAround Beijing, protecting it from the viral spread.

On Sunday, Hebei said 13 million people in Shijiazhuang and nearby Xingtai had been tested for the coronavirus since the wave started last week. Authorities have suspended public transportation in both cities, while local governments have banned travel across city lines and restricted residents to their home communities.

Even with defenses in place, Beijing is already tackling its own epidemic in the capital’s Shunyi district, site of the international airport. About thirty people have contracted coronavirus in Shunyi since the end of December, including taxi driver. In response, the district suspended mobile phone services in the region, except for those serving the airport.

Authorities are trying to find the source of the new outbreaks. Beijing’s Shunyi cluster was trace to an arrival from Indonesia, who flew to Fujian province in November before heading to Beijing after completing a 14-day quarantine and testing negative for COVID-19. Now Beijing is demanding that inbound arrivals be quarantined for three weeks instead of two.

The source of the Hebei outbreak remains a mystery. Before the sudden outbreak began in early January, the province had not reported any cases since June of last year.

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