File image: Xi Jinping Photograph:( Reuters )
It began in Hebei. It spread to 11 regions in China's northeast. And now it has reached Beijing
China virus is spreading in China again, and there is a lockdown in capital Beijing. It's an outbreak that's growing bigger by the day. It is China's worst outbreak since March 2020. New clusters are emerging. And China's ham-fisted response and the desperation to contain the outbreak is beginning to show.
It began in Hebei. It spread to 11 regions in China's northeast. And now it has reached Beijing.
On new years' eve Xi Jinping declared China's victory over china's virus.
Perhaps he tempted fate, because within days, the first reports on a virus surge came out. And now there's a lockdown in Beijing. The hotspot is in the Daxing district.
Authorities say only two people have tested positive. But with China's record of mass testing gone horribly wrong and fudged lab reports, it is hard to believe that. Asymptomatic spreaders pose a big risk.
The Chinese press is not discussing any of this. They want to pin the blame on others. Target this time is UK. Chinese state mouthpieces are blaming the UK strain for the outbreak.
They say the new cases have been infected with this mutation. It's a claim that's hard to prove independently.
We don't know if these people travelled to Britain or if they were in contact with someone who had this infection.
Global Times had just two lines of reporting for the entire thing. There was no background information or details about travel history. This is a narrative that china has aggressively tried to push in recent days.
They claim new cases were actually imported and not locally transmitted.
But this is not Beijing's first case this year and this is by no means a victory over the virus.
It's very much around and spreading in China. Local transmissions are still taking place.
As of Wednesday, Beijing reported seven local cases.
That's the official figure. And we must always underline the potential difference with the actual figures Six out of these seven cases were in the district of Daxing.
Today, this number shot up to 11. According to some assessments, this is China's worst flare-up since January last year.
It claimed victory prematurely. The local authorities dropped the ball. And now the virus is spreading again. The draconian lockdowns are back. The lockdown iN Beijing is partial for now. But more than a million residents of Daxing are not being allowed to leave Beijing. Mass testing has been ordered in the entire area.
Beijing has now decided to track everyone who entered the city since December 10. China's desperation is becoming obvious.
The authorities are using strange measures to enforce lockdowns. A viral video shows a man stepping out during a lockdown. A local communist party official caught him and tied him to a tree and abused. The official even threatened to kill him.
As per reports, the party official has been suspended. Meanwhile, the government has issued orders to cities across China. Officials have been asked to gear up for mass testing. This is basically an instruction to all officials across China.
Cities with a population of less than five million should be able to complete mass testing within two days. Places, where more than five million people live, must do it within three to five days. China has been testing entire cities multiple times.
Its a scary repeat of what happened in Wuhan last year.
The head of China's centre for disease control has given an interview. George Fu Gao is China's top Epidemiologist. He has called the outbreak in Hebei a 'Mini-Wuhan'.
More than one thousand people have been infected in Hebei
Following are some of the quotes from his interview
"It is not so large as in Wuhan... But still has local outbreaks."
"I am cautiously optimistic, but I must not take the epidemic lightly"
Even with millions of tests, a draconian lockdown, and threats to citizens, China sounds unsure about tackling the latest outbreak.
It looks like the lunar new year celebrations could be cancelled this year. Curbs have been imposed on gatherings already.
Now the Chinese state wants to control the movement of people. A negative test is now mandatory for migrant workers to move. They must get a test done within seven days of their travel. Chinese authorities didn't say exactly when or how they'll impose the new rules. But, they did say that migrant workers will have to pay for this test out of their pockets.
While all of this is an eerie reminder of what Chinese people suffered last year. It also begs a question. How much is china hiding this time?