One advantage of being a totalitarian state is being able to issue official mandates and back them up with armed force, if necessary. For the past two months, Communist Party leaders in China have imposed a strict medical lockdown to contain the COVID-19 novel coronavirus that broke out in the central city of Wuhan in late December 2019.
Forcing people in China to stay inside by closing businesses, schools, and highways for almost two months was working. But just as businesses were reopening, public transportation started again, and life was resuming its normal pace, a second wave of the rapidly-spreading respiratory disease may be about to crash down on the Chinese. This time, it is people from outside the country bringing the pathogen back inside the vast nation’s borders.
After health officials reported the first case of COVID-19 in China thought to have come from a foreign traveler, Professor Li Lanjuan, one of China’s leading coronavirus experts, shared that she is “very worried that imported cases could trigger another large-scale epidemic in our country.”
Doctors in the city of Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong Province, confirmed the first domestic case of the Wuhan coronavirus “related to an imported case” on March 22, 2020. The patient became ill after having close contact with a 34-year-old woman, Ms. Lin, who entered China after staying in Istanbul, Turkey, from January 22 to March 8 on a business trip.
When Lin flew back to Guangzhou on March 9 via Bangkok, Thailand, she displayed no symptoms upon entering the country and remained at home afterward, for the most part. On March 21, the businesswoman was diagnosed after the municipality’s infectious disease authority tested her under an official rule that requires testing all immigrants entering China.
Jin (54) Jin, first suffered from muscle pain and a lack of strength on March 17. Three days later, he was hospitalized with a slight fever. The following day, he tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Prof. Li, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and a member of the high-level expert group of the National Health and Medical Commission, responded after learning of the new cases:
“This requires us to continue to intensify our efforts and work tirelessly to prevent the coronavirus pneumonia epidemic from spreading in other cities.”
As reported by China News Service, Li has been working since February 2 with a medical team at the East Hospital of Wuhan University People’s Hospital for over 50 days. According to her, recent developments mean there will be no rest for the weary health practitioners in China as they turn to face a new source of the potent and previously unseen strain of influenza:
“Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hangzhou and other cities have frequent international exchanges, and I am very worried that foreign imports will cause another epidemic in our country.”
Many Chinese provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities have returned to work and production. For the past five days, Wuhan has reported no new or suspected cases of the illness, which attacks the lungs, causing mucus to clot and clog a patient’s airways.
Prof. Li stressed that her country is not out of the viral woods yet. To prevent a “resurgence” of the disease, “this work must persist.” Regarding the appearance of new cases from foreign sources, she cautioned:
“We must not take this lightly.”
To help prevent and contain the contagion, eight medical teams from Heilongjiang, Chongqing, Jiangsu, Fujian, and Jiangxi were dispatched to the Wuhan University People’s Hospital East Hospital to help treat the sick and those under observation to see if symptoms develop.
Travelers returning to China from countries and regions with severe epidemics are subject to quarantine for 14 days even if they show no symptoms. Returnees without symptoms from localities with relatively mild outbreaks are to be quarantined for 14 days at home to watch for recurrence.
As of March 23, the number of imported cases has risen steadily in recent weeks to more than 350. Of the 39 new cases reported that day, 10 patients were in Shanghai and 10 were in Beijing.
China has now counted more than 81,000 cases of COVID-19 with 3,270 deaths.
Areas in strict isolation with the highest risk of infection are the most dangerous places for infection. Dubbed the “Red Zone,” respiratory and critical care physician Wang Feng, critical care surgeon Li Bin, and intensive care nurse Zhang Shuangyuan working there are using “benevolence as the shield and surgery as the sword.”
Chinese health officials announced no new local cases of COVID-19 on March 23 but confirmed 39 new infections imported from overseas travelers. Officials said that Wuhan residents deemed healthy may move around the city and ride the bus or subway provided they show ID.
With a permission slip from an employer, an employee may return to work. Residents may leave the city and travel in the surrounding Hubei province after receiving a negative test for the coronavirus and a health certificate.