Coronavirus outbreak in two Chinese provinces causes panic all over China, leading to lockdowns, invasive contact tracing and forced mass testing
A recent outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) in two Chinese provinces is causing six other provinces and the capital of Beijing to panic and resort to increasingly authoritarian measures to try and control the outbreak
The resurgent coronavirus outbreak was first detected in the eastern province of Anhui and the northeastern coastal province of Liaoning. According to residents who spoke with NTD
and The Epoch Times
, local officials in both provinces have resorted to repressive lockdown measures in response.
In Liaoning's capital city of Shenyang, reports indicate that more than 40,000 people were forced into isolation after the May Day holiday because they traveled outside of the city. Health officials, with the support of law enforcement, forced people to quarantine in their homes regardless of whether or not they had been tested for COVID-19.
Additional reports also say that local officials sealed off entire residential communities and even resorted to barricading the doors and windows of some homes and buildings. (Related: Hong Kong residents stand up against plan to send them to coronavirus prison camps
One supermarket employee from the Yiyuan Community in the Heping District of Shenyang told NTD
that people were not allowed to leave the community as soon as they entered. "It's just because some residents there went to Yingkou for vacation during the May Day holiday." Yingkou is another city in Liaoning.
As of May 17, the CCP Health Commission reported that new local cases were still being reported in Liaoning. Authorities in Shenyang declared multiple neighborhoods as having an elevated risk of an outbreak and ordered all residents in these districts to get tested for COVID-19.
In the city of Yingkou, officials have sent 14 letters of assistance to six provinces, five cities and one autonomous region. The city is asking for help with its contact tracing efforts.
As of May 19, only the provinces of Liaoning and Anhui have reported new coronavirus cases. But invasive contract tracing programs have begun in seven provinces and regions, including the capital of Beijing.
Unknown cause of the current outbreak causing panic
Chinese health experts have been unable to track down the precise origin of this new outbreak. Wu Zunyou, an expert in epidemiology, told Chinese media outlets that he believes this round of outbreaks was due to the May Day holiday. People gathered in large numbers and traveled all over China to reunite with family during the said holiday.
The leading hypothesis is that the new outbreak may have originated in Yingkou
, a port city in Liaoning. Epidemiological studies conducted by Chinese researchers – done by gathering the travel histories of all confirmed cases as well as people they came into close contact with – have linked the outbreak to six provinces and Beijing.
The first reported case came from the city of Lu'an in Anhui. Experts believe the virus came from somewhere else.
"As an inland province, the possibility that Anhui's resurgence resulted from imported cases is low. But Liaoning, the province where Yingkou is located, had reported several domestic outbreaks
triggered by imported cases," explained Wu.
Other experts support the hypothesis that the virus may have come from Yingkou, especially since it is a major port city. Yingkou Port conducts business with 130 ports in over 40 countries, including Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong.
Despite the possibility of the outbreak originating in Yingkou, experts don't have enough evidence. The unknown source of transmission has caused many Chinese people to express their fears and grievances on social media.
"Why [were those] who went to Yingkou [just] fine, only the ones from Shenyang were infected?" asked one worried individual online.
Another asked: "How come they got infected at a place where there have been no cases reported for more than half a year? This is the key question."
The Chinese government's authoritarian response to the outbreak which, as of May 16, has caused several dozen symptomatic and asymptomatic cases but zero deaths, did not help assuage the fears of many Chinese citizens. Chinese social media websites are flooded with images of neighborhoods in Yingkou and Shenyang being closed off from the rest of the region.
In the town of Xiongyue in the Bayuquan District in Yingkou, residents reported online that local officials have closed off certain residential communities by sealing off the entrances to buildings and peoples' homes. Locks were placed on the doors of community buildings and individual apartment units, and some building doors were even welded shut.
Videos have also been posted showing "overnight COVID-19 mass testing" facilities in Yingkou, where city residents were forced to line up for hours in the cold -- with no social distancing -- just to get tested.
Learn more about the new outbreak in China by reading the latest articles at Pandemic.news