Wuhan waits for coronavirus lockdown to end, but controls on movement likely to remain in force

Residents of the capital of Hubei province will be allowed to leave the city from Wednesday onwards if they are in good health and have the necessary permits.

The city, where the first cases of Covid-19 were identified, has been locked down since January 23.

Controls have already been lifted in many other parts of China and people have been permitted to travel in other parts of Hubei since the end of March.

But Wuhan remains alert to the risk of another outbreak, particularly from asymptomatic carriers.

On Saturday one resident of the city was confirmed to have the coronavirus that causes the disease despite showing no symptoms for the past two months. The virus was only detected when the resident went for a health check-up on March 30.

They were admitted to hospital on April 2 for treatment and categorised as a confirmed case, according to the city’s health commission.

The Wuhan government issued an order on Friday outlining the restrictions that would remain in force and urged residents to avoid going outside unless necessary.

The city will allow residents from communities that are deemed to be “epidemic-free” to leave the compound for two hours at a time. Stores within these compounds will be allowed to open between 9am and 6pm.

Residents who want to go outside will have to download a QR code or get a special pass to prove they are healthy.

To qualify as “epidemic-free”, a residential compound must have had no confirmed coronavirus cases for at least 14 days, as well as no suspected cases or residents who have had close contact with a confirmed case.

According to the Wuhan city government, 7,033 or around 99 per cent of the city’s residential compounds have qualified as “epidemic-free” as of Thursday. This leaves around 77 complexes which did not have this status.

The city’s order also called for a complete tracking of asymptomatic cases, “reinfected” patients and those who entered Wuhan from outside Hubei province.

“As the movement of residents in the city increased and the number of people who entered Wuhan significantly grew, residents’ vigilance against the spread of the epidemic has relaxed,” said a notice published on the Wuhan government’s website.

“However, as asymptomatic cases and patients who tested positive again after being discharged have emerged, as well as imported cases growing, controlling the epidemic is still difficult. Preventing imported cases and a rebound inside the city remains complex.”

There have been reports the some residential compounds had their “epidemic-free” status suspended recently after discovering asymptomatic cases.

Four apartment complexes in the Donghu New Technology district had their “epidemic-free” statuses revoked after an asymptomatic case and three close contacts were found on April 1.

Residents will have to stay indoors even if they are healthy until the status is restored, Beijing Youth Daily reported.

Gregory Gray, a professor of infectious diseases from Duke University in the United States, said Wuhan is likely to see more cases once the control measures are lifted. But he said it would unrealistic to keep heavy restrictions on movement in place for too long.

“Many scientists suspect that 25 per cent of SARS-CoV-2 transmission is subclinical [with no symptoms], cases will most certainly occur even with minimal new movement and mixing of people,” Gray said.

“I suspect the oppressive loss of personal freedom with such intense monitoring will only increase the frustration of the Chinese people.”

Wen Ji, a Wuhan resident who works as a freelancer, said restrictions at her residential compound in Qiaokou district have been relaxed, but most of her neighbours only went outside when they had to.

“I haven’t been outside our compound for over a month now. My family has gone out shopping for groceries twice though,” Wen said.

“I don’t think the control measures for residential compounds within the city will be removed even if the lockdown is lifted.”

Crystal Yu, a marketing graduate who lives in Wuhan’s Hongshan district, said even if control measures are lifted, she would remain cautious.

She said that people risked losing their green code if they went somewhere that a confirmed case had also visited and would then face controls on their movement.

“Control measures will not be removed quickly. This virus is too vicious,” she said.

Born in China and raised in New Zealand, Linda joined the Post as a reporter in 2018. Previously, she freelanced for Chinese technology media site TechNode. She holds bachelor’s degrees in arts and commerce from the University of Auckland, and has a master’s in global business journalism from Tsinghua University.

Source: South China Morning Post – Wuhan waits for coronavirus lockdown to end, but controls on movement likely to remain in force

Categories: Health & Environment

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