China locks down a city of 11 million people due to 117 positive covid-19 cases
Leaving the municipality is forbidden, and there are plans to test all citizens
SabadellAuthorities in the Chinese city of Shijiazhuang have banned its more than 11 million citizens from leaving the municipality since Thursday. The measure aims to prevent the spread of the new outbreak of covid-19 that was detected during the weekend and has since affected 117 people. Among the measures taken are a ban on leaving the city by road, the closure of train stations, the suspension of long-distance bus services and the cancellation of more than 80% of flights. Although people can still leave their houses, schools have been closed and meetings restricted, and the inhabitants of Gaocheng district, where most of the contagion is concentrated, will not be able to leave the area. The city has freed five hospitals to treat only covid-19 patients, according to local press reports.
In parallel with these restrictions, the city has implemented a strict programme to track the close contacts of infected persons and has initiated a massive testing campaign that plans to reach every inhabitant of Shijiazhuang. According to the Chinese newspaper Global Times, from Wednesday, when the mass screening began, until Thursday noon, 6.11 million people had already been sampled. Of these, 2.4 million had already been tested and 11 more positives were detected.
Shijiazhuang is the capital of Hebei province, which surrounds the city of Beijing and which currently concentrates the vast majority of active coronavirus cases in China: this Wednesday the country reported 63 new infections, 52 of which correspond to this province (and 51 to the city). Although these figures are very low compared with most Western countries (in Catalonia, for example, this Thursday there were 2,308 new positive cases), these 63 cases have generated concern in China, since it has been more than five months since such a high number of infections was detected (on July 30). This has led to the dismissal of three officials from the Gaocheng district, who have been accused of negligence in carrying out their duties in controlling the pandemic, according to the China Daily.
China, the country where the pandemic started at the end of 2019, managed to overcome the first wave at the end of February, according to Xi Jinping's governmental version. Since then, it has imposed very strict controls to avoid new outbreaks and this has allowed it to avoid the second wave: since the beginning of March, the highest number of new cases registered in a single day was 351 on 16 April - in a country with more than 1.4 billion inhabitants. Before Shijiazhuang, cities like Qingdao, with 9 million people, and Kashgar, with 4.7 million, have also been testing the entire population with PCR tests. In the first case, 12 positive cases had been detected, but in the second only one.
State of emergency in Tokyo
Without reaching the figures recorded in Europe, in Japan the pandemic is much less controlled than in China: 6,004 cases of covid-19 were diagnosed on Wednesday, the highest number so far, and this Thursday there were 7,048 infections. Of these, 2,447 are concentrated in the country's capital, Tokyo, which for the third day in a row has exceeded 1,000 infections. In view of this situation, the government has decreed a state of emergency in the city and three adjacent headquarters (a territory where 30% of the country's population lives), "due to the serious feeling of danger in view of the rapid expansion of the coronavirus", according to the Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga.
The measure, which will come into effect on Friday and should last until Feb. 7, is based largely on recommendations to the population, since the government does not have the necessary tools to close down establishments or force the population into lockdown. Thus, citizens are asked not to leave their homes at night, bars and restaurants will be financially encouraged to close at 8 pm, the capacity of sports stadiums and major events will be limited to a maximum of 5,000 people, and teleworking will be promoted, with the intention that 70% of the population will opt for this modality. Unlike in spring, when a tougher, statewide state of emergency was decreed, schools will now be kept open.