Hebei in new Covid-19 ‘war emergency'
by Wang Zhicheng

The capital of the province Shijiazhuang, with 11 million inhabitants, has been put in lockdown: kindergartens, schools, universities closed; it is forbidden to travel outside; some neighbourhoods cannot even move around the city. Catholics, their gatherings and hospitality to foreign missionaries are being blamed for hundreds of new cases of infections. Travel during the Chinese New Year is not recommended. In addition to Hebei, there are cases in Chengdu (Sichuan), Dalian (Liaoning), Hehe (Heilongjiang), Beijing.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - Hebei, the province surrounding Beijing is facing a "war emergency" due to a new Covid-19 epidemic. In particular, the capital of Hebei, Shijiazhuang, was put in lockdown after the discovery of hundreds of new cases of coronavirus.

Yesterday 120 new infections were recorded in the province, of which 50 in Shijiazhuang alone; 117 the previous day. According to the authorities, the cases date back to infections that occurred on January 2.

Shijiazhuang, a city of 11 million has been isolated: individuals and vehicles are prohibited from leaving the city; over 3 thousand doctors and health personnel are engaged in a series of sweeping tests; people who live in the Gaocheng neighbourhood, considered the epicentre of the infection, are also prohibited from moving from one point of the city to another. Shijiazhuang Railway Station has shut down services; Zhengding International Airport has cancelled more than 300 flights so far. All schools and kindergartens have cancelled lessons in class moving them online; the provincial university sent students home weeks before closing for the Chinese New Year holidays.

The Communist Party Disciplinary Committee has punished three government authorities for negligence in containing the spread of the virus. They are the deputy head of the Gaocheng government, the deputy director of the district A&E, the head of the village of Liujiazuo, where dozens of infections have been recorded.

Some Party members blame Catholics for spreading the virus with their prayer services and inviting foreign missionaries.

The civil affairs department of Hebei has issued a warning: the entire province is required to reduce the number of people attending gatherings such as weddings, funerals, and parties for the upcoming Lunar New Year.

According to Feng Zijian, deputy director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus that has spread in Hebei was probably imported from Europe.

The new wave in Hebei is not the only one in the country. In recent weeks there have been sporadic cases in Chengdu (Sichuan), Dalian (Liaoning), Hehe (Heilongjiang), Beijing.

Many local governments have issued warnings asking the population to stay at home and not to make "unnecessary" trips during the Chinese New Year holiday to avoid the spread of the virus.