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China is back in emergency mode, fighting to contain COVID surge ahead of holiday

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Beijing – China rushes to build massive quarantine camp with more than 4,000 isolation suites in Hebei province, an area just outside Beijing at the center of a resurgence coronavirus epidemic. Ahead of a vacation that normally triggers the largest mass movement of humans on the planet, authorities have put tens of millions of people under tight control in a bid to stem the spread of COVID-19 a year after it first appeared .

The new isolation center spans more than 108 acres on the outskirts of Shijiazhuang City, the provincial capital of Hebei Province, which surrounds Beijing. It will temporarily house close contacts and secondary contacts of confirmed COVID-19 patients so that they can be kept under medical observation for any signs of infection.

A time lapse video Broadcast by the public broadcaster CCTV shows construction crews working around the clock to build the huge facility.

CHINA-HEBEI-NANGONG-COVID-19-QUARANTINE-CONSTRUCTION CENTER (CN)
Aerial photo taken on January 19, 2021 shows a COVID-19 quarantine center under construction in Nangong City, China’s Hebei Province.

Xinhua / Getty


“More than 4,000 construction workers worked six days and nights non-stop” to complete the first batch of 606 rooms, and 1,173 more are expected to be completed on Wednesday, according to Shijiazhuang Deputy Mayor Meng Xianghong.

Each room in the quarantine center measures approximately 194 square feet and will have a private bathroom, 5G Wi-Fi and a TV, as well as desks, chairs and beds, according to official media. .

Scenes from the emergency construction project in Shijiazhuang reminded many Chinese of Beijing’s efforts a year ago to build makeshift hospitals in the central city of Wuhan, where the first cases of COVID-19 emerged. Two hospitals were built from the ground up in just 12 days.

CHINA-HEBEI-SHIJIAZHUANG-COVID-19-NUCLEIC ACID TEST (CN)
A medical worker takes a swab sample from a child at a COVID-19 testing site in Shijiazhuang, capital of north China’s Hebei Province, Jan.20, 2021.

Xinhua / Zhu Xudong / Getty


But Hebei province is now the epicenter of the coronavirus resurgence in China. There have been more than 800 locally transmitted cases since COVID-19 infections started to rise again in the country in early January. More than 90% of these new cases were found in Shijiazhuang.

While the numbers are pale compared to epidemics hit the United States, Great Britain and other hard-hit countries, China had emerged almost completely pandemic just weeks ago, and it is taking an aggressive approach to curb new infections.

Shijiazhuang began a third round of mass testing on Wednesday, aimed at testing the 11 million residents for COVID-19 within three days. In the meantime, the city is on lockdown, with residents ordered to stay at home with a few exceptions.


Wuhan one year after the start of the pandemic …

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Chinese Vice Premier Sun Chunlan this week visited Hebei Province and visited Shijiazhuang, where she urged swift and resolute action to curb the spread of the disease. She called on Hebei regional authorities to learn lessons, and in particular to suspend religious gatherings that have been accused of fueling the current spread of the virus.

Health officials in Beijing have meanwhile confirmed that two cases of the highly transmissible disease COVID-19 variant first detected in UK were detected this week in the capital. And on Thursday, the first locally transmitted coronavirus case in two months was confirmed in the Shanghai financial center.

The outbreak in Hebei and cases elsewhere have put the Chinese government on the lookout ahead of the Lunar New Year, which typically sees hundreds of millions of people travel across the country to be with the family. The two-week vacation period begins the second week of February.

Tens of millions of people in Hebei, Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces are under tight lockdown restrictions, including around 20,000 people displaced last week from villages outside Shijiangzhuang to centralized quarantine centers .

Grocery vendors sell vegetables outside a residential entrance in Shijiazhuang, Hebei
Grocery vendors sell vegetables outside a residential complex that was blocked off by authorities amid a COVID-19 outbreak in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, China on January 19, 2021.

STRINGER / Reuters


Authorities are urging people to avoid travel during this Lunar New Year holiday. Anyone wishing to return home to a rural area from a Chinese city will have to present a negative COVID-19 test result within seven days of their trip, the National Health Commission said on Wednesday. Most of China’s 280 million rural migrant workers would normally return home to their villages for the New Year holidays.

Beijing officials also said they would extend the mandatory observation period for international travelers entering the capital to 28 days, to help prevent the importation of new cases of COVID-19, especially the disturbing new variants. spreading elsewhere.

China has also stepped up its vaccination program, with more than 15 million doses distributed on Wednesday.

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