A FRESH coronvirus outbreak in China’s Henan province has raised fears of a devastating second COVID-19 wave – despite the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s attempts to claim the country is winning the battle against the disease.
A fresh cluster of cases has been reported among medical staff at Jia County People’s Hospital, where one of them had just spent 14 days in quarantine after returning from Wuhan in neighbouring Hubei province, where the disease first emerged at the end of last year. As a result, country authorities have imposed travel restrictions, with non-essential travel banned between villages and communities. Anyone coming in and out of residential compounds is required to wear a facemask, have their temperature taken and produce a certificate to prove they are healthy, according to an official document leaked to Radio Free Asia.
Businesses are closed except for supermarkets and farmers’ markets, with 600,000 people effectively living under curfew, according to the country government’s Weibo account.
One resident said: “Everything’s locked down. It just started.
“All households are locked down. Nobody can go into town, or if you do, you won’t be able to leave again.”
One member of staff at the hospital’s testing division said there strict rules about getting who was permitted to get tested.
They added: “Not just anyone can come; you have to be on a special list.
“You can only get it done with official approval from higher up, when we get notification from them.
“Nobody’s getting tested if they’re not on the list.”
The hospital is carrying out “several hundred” tests a day, the staff member said, adding that this was an estimate.
“We are all working overtime here in the testing division, anyway.”
Another resident said: “Many people believe that the epidemic has been brought under control due to government propaganda, which is false.
“Basically life has gone back to the way it used to be, just with some people still choosing to wear face masks on the streets.
“But some people stopped wearing masks too, so this news is a good thing, because it will keep people on the alert.”
Doubts have also been cast on official figures suggesting just 1,000 asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 have been recorded, specifically claims by epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan, coronavirus epidemic adviser to the government, that the proportion of asymptomatic infections was very low.
Chen Bingzhong, the former director of the China Institute of Health Education under the ministry of health, said: “Zhong Nanshan believes that the proportion of asymptomatic people is very low. This is wrong, but how do we prove it?”
“The most reliable way to achieve early detection is a nucleic acid test, but are these tests 100 percent reliable?
“No, they’re not, but they’re the most reliable method we have right now.”
The government feared the more people who were confirmed were infected, the more these people would hold them to account, Mr Bingzhong said.
He added: “It’ll get to the point where they lose legitimacy because they just try to cover everything up and pass the buck,” he said. “They are doing this to cling onto power.”
Official figures suggest 55 new cases of asymptomatic infections were confirmed on Friday, while 1,075 people were under medical observation.
Officially, China has 82,464 cases of COVID-19, of whom 76,741 have recovered, and 3,326 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Centre.
However, government data leaked last month suggested the proportion of suffers without symptoms could be as high as one in three.