China blocks WHO team as local infections rise

In Summary

• Chinese health officials in Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei province which borders Beijing from all sides, would test its entire population and restriction of movement on the local population has been put into place.

• The Chinese authorities are frantically issuing notices warning people to avoid clustered outbreaks, and have restricted gatherings like banquets and weddings during and after the lunar New Year period.

Medical staff carry a box as they walk at the Jinyintan hospital, where the patients with pneumonia caused by the new strain of coronavirus are being treated, in Wuhan, Hubei province, China
Medical staff carry a box as they walk at the Jinyintan hospital, where the patients with pneumonia caused by the new strain of coronavirus are being treated, in Wuhan, Hubei province, China
Image: REUTERS

The pandemic has broken out again all over mainland China. On the first day of the new year, the authorities announced 22 confirmed cases, of which 8 were local cases, in Liaoning and Beijing.

Some buildings in Dalian have been forced to nail steel plates. In addition, the Chinese Communist Party’s official media disclosed that 43 shelter hospitals will be built in Inner Mongolia, arousing international concern.

Chinese health officials in Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei province which borders Beijing from all sides, would test its entire population and restriction of movement on the local population has been put into place.

The restrictions include movement of interprovincial travel either through road or by air. In order to curb the spread of infections to Beijing, the municipal government of national capital has asked people who have been to Hebei to report to their communities for epidemic control measures.

It may be noted that Shijiazhuang mayor Deng Peiran was put under investigation on corruption charges last month, which may lead to a leadership crisis in controlling the pandemic in the city.

The outbreak of new wave is especially scary as China prepares for the lunar New Year. The Chinese authorities are frantically issuing notices warning people to avoid clustered outbreaks, and have restricted gatherings like banquets and weddings during and after the lunar New Year period.

In a bid to save the embarrassment China faced due to its failure to control the epidemic in Wuhan last year, the propaganda machinery is busy branding the virus as imported, some officials claimed that the strain found in the Hebei, was probably imported from Europe or South Africa.

Meanwhile, China has blocked a WHO delegation from entering into China. The visit was crucial form the point of view of origin tracing of the virus.

WHO officials claimed that details for a visit by its ten-man team to China had been previously agreed upon by China.

WHO Director-General has taken to Twitter, to say that he's very disappointed with the current situation. With infections being reported from all across China from Shaanxi, Dalian, Hebei, Beijing and Inner Mongolia, Chinese authorities’ argument that the new outbreak is imported is falling on its head.

The refusal to let a team from the WHO into the country to investigate the origins of the coronavirus pandemic may expose the argument further.