Anxin near Beijing imposes 'strictest' countywide lockdown to prevent COVID-19
Published: Jun 29, 2020 04:44 PM

Medical staff members take throat swab samples from people at a newly-adopted mobile testing vehicle in Xicheng District of Beijing, capital of China, June 28, 2020. (Photo/China News Service)

Despite the COVID-19 epidemic being "stable and controllable," Anxin county of Xiong'an New Area in North China's Hebei Province has implemented the "strictest measures" to fight COVID-19 by imposing a countywide lockdown.

The announcement that Anxin, a county about 130 kilometers from Beijing, would impose a lockdown on Saturday triggered widespread public discussion over how serious the epidemic situation is in the county.  

While there are some voices saying the lockdown is an overreaction, most show a more understanding attitude, saying the lockdown is aimed at ending the epidemic quickly, as it has reached a decisive stage that must be brought to a swift end.

According to the Anxin government, all close contacts were quarantined after COVID-19 confirmed cases in the county were found to be closely linked with Beijing's Xinfadi market. More than 2,100 Anxin residents run aquatic product businesses in the Xinfadi market, the government said. 

Anxin recently reported 12 COVID-19 cases, 11 of which were related to Beijing's Xinfadi wholesale market. As of Sunday, the county has not reported newly confirmed cases for three consecutive days. 

The announcement of the lockdown shows that "we have always taken the strictest prevention and control measures to meet the challenge of the epidemic… the tight epidemic prevention and control network has been continuously consolidated, and the improved epidemic prevention and control situation in the county has not changed," the Anxin  anti-epidemic guiding group explained. 

Zeng Guang, a chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Global Times the county has very close links with Beijing, especially in relation to the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Integration plan, which explains why such strict anti-epidemic measures are being taken. 

All villages and residential communities are now conducting closed-off management, and non-local residents and vehicles are no longer allowed to enter the county. 

A restaurant owner in Anxin  county told the Global Times, "In previous days, we could take walks at night. Now, the lockdown is very strict, as each family can assign only one person to go out once every day to purchase supplies. We have to stay at home every day." Her restaurant has shut its doors since the lockdown was announced. 

Just like the restaurant owner, many other Chinese netizens voiced their support for the sudden measures, saying a lockdown doesn't necessarily mean the epidemic situation is deteriorating, but that the government is taking a very cautious attitude in order to contain the virus.

A local supermarket manager in the county told the Global Times that the purchase of daily necessities like food and vegetables has been quite stable in recent days, with no signs of panic buying, but the flow of customers is largely reduced. 

Supermarkets have to transport vegetables, fruits and meat from the nearby city of Baoding by themselves as the lockdown means vehicles from other regions cannot enter, the manager said. 

To ensure that local residents better conform with the lockdown measures, the public security bureau, together with the local committee of the Communist Youth League, has recruited 80 volunteers from local schools to help them in their work.

A police officer from the Anxin  public security bureau told the Global Times on Monday that the 80 volunteers will be tasked with persuading residents to stay indoors and advocating anti-epidemic policies to the public while patrolling the streets in the county. 

The police officer said it is still unknown when the lockdown will be eased, and until it is, volunteers will be mobilized to wherever population flow is greatest to guide the public in observing social distancing and wearing masks.

Traffic within the county has been largely restricted, as the government has adopted an even and odd-numbered license plate policy, while at the same time requiring drivers of vehicles to have a certificate from either their employers or from communities. 

In the foreseeable future, COVID-19 cannot be eradicated and a regional outbreak is still possible, said Wang Guangfa, a respiratory expert at Peking University First Hospital, making it important for local governments to prepare for a long and protracted battle.