Virus-hit Hebei capital stays calm in de-facto lockdown
Situation ‘unlikely’ to last months like Wuhan
Published: Jan 08, 2021 10:38 PM

A medical worker collects a swab sample from a resident at a community in Yuhua District of Shijiazhuang, capital of north China's Hebei Province, Jan. 7, 2021. Shijiazhuang started to conduct citywide nucleic acid tests covering all residents on Wednesday. (Xinhua/Jin Haoyuan)

Despite the COVID-19 flare-ups in Shijiazhuang, capital of North China's Hebei Province, residents seem ready to overcome boredom and worry three days after the de-facto lockdown, with their optimism, calm and sense of responsibility. Shijiazhuang announced on Thursday that all people and vehicles in the city are not allowed to leave.

The Hebei provincial government said at a press briefing Friday that they have recorded 127 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 183 asymptomatic carriers from January 2 to Friday. However, the source of infection remains unknown, even if Shijiazhuang has collected more than 9.8 million nucleic acid samples, and 6.23 million samples have been tested since the flare-up. 

A man surnamed He, a Shijiazhuang city resident reached by the Global Times on Friday, said that life under the de-facto lockdown is not that tight.  

Our community has set up designated supply sites so we can go down and buy vegetables if needed, He said, hoping life would return to normal after city-wide nucleic acid testing finishes, as a majority of cases were found in Gaocheng district, which has been identified as a high-risk area.  

Shijiazhuang is expected to complete city-wide nucleic acid testing on Saturday, and Gaocheng district completed its COVID-19 screening on Friday, with 259 testing positive for the coronavirus. 

The spread of COVID-19 in Hebei is fast, but controllable, National Health Commission expert Tong Zhaohui said in an interview with CCTV on Friday. 

Global Times learned that some hospitals in Shijiazhuang still have outpatient clinics open to meet basic medical needs. However, patients need to make an appointment and have their temperatures measured. But there are also hospitals which keep only emergency room staff on duty, with wards admitting only critically ill patients.

Surnamed Wang, a medic from the First Hospital of Hebei Medical University told the Global Times that as almost all communities are under closed management, hospital visits have been much lower in recent days.

The hospital has 240 medical staff sent to the frontline of the fight against the epidemic. Some supported nucleic acid testing, while others were dispatched to designated hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients.

The Hebei provincial government said the province has dispatched 840 medics to Shijiazhuang, and 1,100 medical staff who have experience in Wuhan arrived in Shijiazhuang as well. 

With the role of 'political moat' of Beijing, Shijiazhuang announced on Thursday afternoon that all people and vehicles in the city are not allowed to leave, a responsible and self-sacrificial move applauded by Chinese people.

A Shijiazhuan police officer told the Global Times that there is very little traffic, but traffic police are on duty, mainly in the expressway station, city boundary, and 109 national road entrances. 

"It's just a matter of time, I am confident that we would be able to overcome the epidemic," said the police officer who requested anonymity. Some observers believe that based on Shijiazhuang's current situation, the lockdown is unlikely to last a few months like in Wuhan, or a 43-day shutdown in Urumqi.  

Shijiazhuang residents call the city a "Rock [music] Home Town," a literal translation of the city's Chinese name, to show a sense of rebellion for daily life.

"It's not that we were banned from going out and getting some fresh air; the cold weather is keeping us indoors," a Shijiazhuang resident surnamed Jiang who works in a local medical equipment firm told the Global Times. 

He said since the flare-ups, he has been talking on WeChat videos with his "annoying" mother in East China's Shandong Province every day to let her know that her son is safe and sound, as his family very likely cannot reunite in the upcoming Spring Festival.

 "Sometimes I secretly play mahjong online with friends when working remotely at home," Jiang laughed.  

What touched Jiang most was that many of his classmates, including his ex-girlfriend, who he had lost contact with for a long time after graduation, called him again to ask about his safety, which made him feel warm. Still, the epidemic made him feel the preciousness of his previous day-to-day life, and he yearns for a return to normal.

"Many of my friends were surprised by my calm, which, despite being in an epidemic-hit city, was probably due to the confidence in the Chinese model that we have proved to be successful," Jiang said. 

"People of Shijiazhuang have been very understanding and supportive of our work and always have confidence in safeguarding the security of Hebei Province and the capital. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude and sincere respect," a Hebei government official said at Friday's press briefing.
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