In the northern province of Hebei, China, 11 million people are locked up in the midst of yet another coronavirus spreading across the country. The people of Shijiazhuang, the capital of the province close to Beijing, cannot leave the town. The major motorways are all blocked.
Public transport services have been cancelled, including buses, trains and flights. The lockdown was announced after 117 Covid-19 infections were identified in the city on January 6, including 67 asymptomatic cases. Shijiazhuang reported another 66 positive cases on January 7, according to Hebei’s Health Commission. From Beijing, Shijiazhuang is just 289 KM.
The municipal officials have banned outbound travel for all residents and vehicles except for emergencies. There is a ban on gatherings as well. The local authorities closed down schools, residential communities and villages within the city boundaries. The restrictions resemble the March 2020 restrictions that China imposed on some regions to contain the virus.
In a few weeks, China will celebrate its annual festival to welcome Lunar New Year, which generally sees millions of people travelling to their family homes. Last year, just two days before the celebrations Wuhan was sealed off, but by then millions of people had already left the city potentially spreading the virus in other past of the nation.
There is a fear that Lunar New Year travellers will against increase the spread of the virus. As of now, Shijiazhuang has entered a “wartime mode” to contain the virus. As per the reports, the government will run a city-wide testing drive for all 11 million residents with the help of thousands of health workers. By Saturday, the government had deployed over 40,000 health workers to complete screening of all 11 million residents at the earliest.
As per the health officials, the first recent case of Covid-19 was found on January 2 in an old woman in a village on the outskirts of Shijiazhuang. Chinese Vice-Premier Sun Chunlan also visited the province to assess the preventive measures being taken by the authorities. Around 86 percent of the cases in the region were found in rural areas. Experts believe that spike in the number of cases among elders in rural areas show that they are more vulnerable to the disease.
So far, China has reported 87,433 Covid-19 cases out of which 82,211 recovered and 4,634 had died.