As new cases rise to 184*, China begins a second COVID lockdown for certain regions – impacting a population of 22 million people, just as the WHO team arrives to study the virus
While the spike in number pales in contrast to countries like the UK or US, China have moved to the strictest level of lockdown immediately.
Shijiazhuang and Xiangta have been locked down in full, with Langfang and Heilongjiang soon to follow. Residents in these two cities were tested in full within a matter of days.
Areas in Beijing also shut down, according to the New York Times. The closures are expected to impact over 22 million people.
Lessons from the first wave
In the first wave, the city of Wuhan was put under an unprecedented lockdown. The world watched as residents waved from balconies, with occasional singing travelling from high-rise to high-rise. These videos were popular globally. Maybe they gave the rest of the world a survival framework, for how they would exist two months down the line. People texted censored news to one another, but it was doctors and journalists who risked their freedom to do so.
On 23 January, the city of 11 million people effectively ground to a halt.
Dr Li Wenliang was the whistle-blower who raised early awareness of COVID-19 in Wuhan. While authorities reported mysterious pneumonia cases in December 2019, he found a different story.
In a report, he saw that the virus was some kind of SARS. In seeing a disparity in the truth, Li circulated the document to his friends. This report leaked from his closed circle, drawing the attention of Wuhan police – who then enacted punitive measures against him for “false comments”.
He died on 7 February, 2020, by contracting COVID-19 from a patient. Five more doctors at that hospital would be dead by June.
As the rest of the world joined China in lockdown, Wuhan’s dedication paid off. The city exited lockdown on 8 April, 2020.
Researchers looking at the usefulness of a Wuhan-lockdown said that some of the “virus transmission control measures” went “beyond the requirements” of responding to epidemic emergencies, but that they really did work.
The WHO team arrive to investigate
In January 2021, China is reporting 184 new COVID cases – according to WHO figures.
Wang Bin, an official at the Disease Prevention and Control Bureau, said: “Despite recent outbreaks in different parts of the country, the overall epidemic situation in China is under control.”
A team of 13 World Health Organisation (WHO) scientists have secured clearance to go to Wuhan and investigate the origins of COVID-19. Initially, they attempted to travel on 5 January – they were denied, with China citing the need to confirm final permissions. Their work will determine how much obscurity there may have been in data transparency from China, which sought to hide the existence of the virus as early as December.
This follows recent news that the Chinese vaccine, Sinovac, is performing a much lower efficiency than previously suggested. Current data says that Sinovac’s Coronavac is only 50.4% effective against COVID-19. At the beginning of the week, officials said efficiency was at 65%.
The WHO require a minimum of 50% to consider a vaccine successful enough to recommend it for emergency use globally. A second team will assess the COVID vaccines and decide if they can be added to that list, while the second COVID lockdown continues.
*Figures of COVID cases recent as of 14 January, 2021.