The article below was last updated on May 19, 2020.
May 19 updates:
Plans to test the entire population of Wuhan, the city where the Covid-19 pandemic began
China is drawing up ambitious plans to test the entire population of Wuhan, the city where the Covid-19 pandemic began.
The announcement came after the emergence of six new coronavirus cases in the city – the first ones since early April.
The authorities had originally promised to test all 11 million people in 10 days.
But it now appears they might be aiming for a less ambitious timetable.
How long will the testing take?
In late April, the Hubei provincial government reported 63,000 people were being tested in Wuhan every day.
And by 10 May, that figure had dropped to just under 40,000.
There are more than 60 testing centers across the city, according to the official Hubei Daily newspaper.
These have a maximum capacity of 100,000 tests a day at most, making it hard to see how a target of testing the entire population in just 10 days could be met.
So the authorities have indicated the tests will not all start and finish within the same 10-day period.
“Some districts [in the city] will start from 12 May, others from 17 May, for example,” the Wuhan Centre for Disease Control said.
“Each district finishes its tests within 10 days from the date it started.”
And according to a Reuters report on 13 May, preparations for carrying out tests had begun in two out of the city’s 13 districts.
What proportion has been tested already?
The authorities say they have now tested more than three million people in the city.
Wuhan University pathogen biology department deputy director Yang Zhanqiu told the Global Times newspaper he believed up to five million Wuhan residents may have already been tested.
The population of the city – originally 11 million – has also fluctuated over time.
The authorities said up to five million people had left the city for the lunar New Year holiday before it was locked down on 23 January.
The lockdown then lasted until 8 April, but it is unclear how many of these residents have now returned.
China: COVID-19 outbreak under control
The initial epicenter of the novel coronavirus, China has reassured other countries that it brought the outbreak under control.
Beijing has brought the outbreak under control through arduous efforts, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the top diplomats of Hungary, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Estonia in a late Thursday phone call on the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a statement by the country’s Foreign Ministry, Wang also said the country was gradually resuming economic and social life while regularly undertaking prevention and control measures.
Expressing the country’s gratitude to his counterparts for their solidarity and support for China’s fight against the outbreak, he stressed that international cooperation was required to subdue the virus.
This would also give countries a chance to strengthen relations and assist each other, Wang added.
In response to criticism accusing China of spreading COVID-19, Wang said that some figures insisted on politicizing the outbreak and defaming the World Health Organization (WHO).
He said such moves, which are a serious violation of international moral principles and undermined international anti-epidemic efforts, should be jointly rejected by the international community.
In early May, the US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo voiced allegations that COVID-19 spread from a laboratory in Wuhan.
Hundreds of villages locked down in northeastern China after fresh coronavirus outbreak
Hundreds of villages in China’s northeastern Jilin province have been placed under lockdown after a cluster of new coronavirus cases were reported in the region, local government officials said Saturday.
Over 1,000 residential buildings have also been quarantined in Shulan, a small city in the center of the province after cases were also reported there, the officials said.
Most transport has also been halted to 1,205 villages and their surrounding areas in a bid to control a fresh outbreak of the deadly disease, they added.
Jin Hua, the mayor of Shulan city, said at a news conference on Saturday that all prevention and control measures had been “strictly implemented in accordance with the central government’s decision-making and the requirements of provinces and cities,” since the outbreak began.
She said that before May 7, there had “been no indigenous cases,” in the city, noting that likely some “Shulan nationals living abroad, especially Russia”, which has a near-by border, had returned home carrying the disease.
As of Friday, Shulan city reported a total of 16 locally confirmed cases, the mayor said. The wider Jilin province, of which Shulan city is part, reported a total of 121 local cases and 19 imported cases, according to the region’s health commission. The area was designated “high risk” earlier this week.
A further 453 people who came into contact with those who were infected in Shulan, had also been placed under medical observation in quarantine, Jin added.
Senior Chinese official, Sun Chunlan, who led efforts to limit the spread of the virus in the city of Wuhan, where the disease originated, rushed to Jilin on Wednesday to investigate and guide the epidemic control work, state news agency Xinhua reported.
Lack of immunity means China is vulnerable to another wave of coronavirus, top adviser warns
China still faces the “big challenge” of a potential second wave of Covid-19 infections, the country’s top respiratory authority has warned, with the lack of immunity among the community a serious concern as the race to develop a vaccine continues.
Dr. Zhong Nanshan, the Chinese government’s senior medical adviser and the public face of the country’s fight against Covid-19, also confirmed in an exclusive interview with CNN on Saturday that local authorities in Wuhan, the city where the novel coronavirus was first reported in December, had suppressed key details about the magnitude of the initial outbreak.
Having now largely contained the virus, life in China is slowly returning to normal. Lockdowns have eased and some schools and factories have reopened across the country.
But Zhong said Chinese authorities should not be complacent, with the danger of a second wave of infections looming large. Fresh clusters of coronavirus cases have emerged across China in recent weeks, in Wuhan as well as the northeastern provinces of Heilongjiang and Jilin.
“The majority of … Chinese at the moment are still susceptible of the Covid-19 infection, because (of) a lack of immunity,” Zhong said. “We are facing (a) big challenge, it’s not better than the foreign countries I think at the moment.”
May 12 updates:
China Issues New Guidelines on Masks, QR Codes and Public Places
China has issued new guidelines for virus prevention as the country moves from an emergency to a normalized response to the COVID-19 outbreak, despite a slight spike in cases.
The new regulations, released via the State Council’s website on Friday, outline changes in the rules for the opening of public places and the use of QR code health tracking systems.
On Sunday, 17 new COVID-19 cases were reported in mainland China, seven of which were apparently imported from Inner Mongolia.
In a bid to return to the previous economic and social order, Beijing has announced that key public places, including cinemas, museums, tourist spots, and libraries, can now reopen via a registration system that limits the number of visitors.
In response, the National Library of China in Beijing is today reopening for the first time since the outbreak.
Only 1200 people per day will be allowed to enter and all must be wearing a mask and submit to a temperature check. Anyone with a temperature above 37.3 degrees centigrade will be refused admission.
Meanwhile, supermarkets, hotels, restaurants, and malls are all cleared to open to the public as normal again as long as proper epidemic prevention and control measures are followed, the guidelines confirm.
The release also called on the public to observe proper hygiene practices in their personal lives, such as washing hands frequently, maintaining a distance from others, and using serving chopsticks when sharing food.
It clarified that masks should be worn if a distance of one meter cannot be kept between people.
While some cities, such as Beijing and Shanghai, have relaxed their mask guidelines in recent days, medical professionals, those visiting doctors and anyone in a public-facing role should still be wearing masks.
The mobile phone QR health codes we’ve all become so used to should be integrated with testing methods, according to the announcement.
The results of antibody and nucleic tests may now be shared through these systems in certain cases.
Under the new guidelines, prevention measures in schools have been intensified.
School employees and students should report their health on a daily basis, with anyone absent because of illness required to specify their diagnosis.
Classrooms should continue to be disinfected and proper hygiene practices should be followed.
May 6 updates:
Beijing will start easing its quarantine restrictions for people arriving from other places in China that are considered low risk in terms of the COVID-19 virus.
The 14-day quarantine measures for anyone arriving into Beijing, Tianjin, and the neighboring province of Hebei will be scrapped unless visitors are coming from high-risk areas, such as Heilongjiang in the north and some parts of Guangdong in the southeast, a government spokesperson confirmed.
The news comes as Beijing lowers its emergency response from level II to level I, meaning those currently in self-isolation in the city can now end their confinement, and citizens no longer have to wear masks while outside.
Many other provinces have already downgraded their emergency response level as China’s new cases of coronavirus remain low.
The confirmation of the easing of restrictions came on the same day as the government announced that its long-delayed meeting of the National People’s Congress is set to take place on May 22.
The meeting traditionally sees thousands of delegates from all over China convene in Beijing for a least 10 days.
The announcement, ahead of the five-day May holiday that begins on Friday, sparked a flurry of domestic flight bookings, according to state media.
Many airlines and hotels are offering deeply discounted deals in an attempt to attract domestic travelers and kickstart their dwindling coffers.
With many countries remaining under lockdown, foreigners banned from entering China and even Chinese nationals still having to undergo a two-week quarantine on their return from overseas, however, international travel remains out of the question for most.
April 27 Updates:
China Considers Easing Travel Ban, Beijing Quarantine Extended to 3 Weeks
As the Chinese government has announced that it may start to ease the travel ban for some foreigners, Beijing has declared Chaoyang China’s only high-risk area and said any overseas arrivals must now quarantine for three weeks instead of two.
The news follows an incident in Beijing’s Shuangjing district in which a returnee who had completed 14 days of centralized quarantine and tested negative for COVID-19 fell ill after returning home.
The returnee went on to infect three members of their household and forced 60 close contacts into quarantine.
What’s more, all this resulted in Chaoyang being classified as China’s only remaining high-risk zone for coronavirus.
This, along with a growing number of similar cases from South Korea, has convinced the Beijing government that those infected with COVID-19 may remain asymptomatic and infectious for longer than 14 days.
As a result, the deputy secretary-general of the Beijing Municipal Government announced this week that all new overseas returnees will now have to submit to an additional week of home observation after their 14 days of centralized or home quarantine.
While this will not currently affect most foreigners, as the vast majority are still banned from entering China, the government has said it is in talks with both South Korea and Singapore about opening up routes for business people and traders.
Hopefully, this is the start of a gradual easing of the restrictions for all foreigners looking to return to China.
Some Beijing Schools Will Reopen on April 27
Beijing schools will begin to reopen on Monday, April 27, the Municipal Education Commission announced this week.
High school seniors will be the first to be reinstated, followed by 9th graders on May 11.
These grades will be the first to return because of the high school exams in Chinese public schools, but no indication has yet been given about the plan for international schools.
In recent weeks, more schools across China have been cautiously opening in graded batches since China’s Ministry of Education suggested a staggered approach on February 28 to minimize the risk of a second COVID-19 outbreak.
Just like Beijing is set to see, 9th and 12th grades were the first to return, followed by other high school and middle school classes in the preceding weeks.
Elementary schools, kindergartens, preschools, colleges, universities, and training centers should be the last to return, according to the official advice.
All students and staff returning to schools are required to follow 25 guidelines laid out by the State Council, including installing temporary isolation areas for anyone showing coronavirus symptoms, following proper ventilation and sanitation protocols, and having returning students and teachers submit to daily health checks and a mandatory 14-day quarantine if they’ve been overseas.
Large group activities have also been banned and break times are to be taken in shifts to avoid students congregating in the yard or cafeteria.
However, many families and teachers are still stuck abroad after China blocked the entry of all foreigners on March 28.
This issue has not been addressed by Beijing’s Municipal Education Commission, but the Beijinger reports that online learning is likely to continue to some extent at many schools, even as they reopen physical classrooms.
Foreigners Breaking Corona Rules Could be ‘Deported and Banned for 10 Years’
Foreigners in China could be deported and banned from re-entry for 10 years if they break the country’s coronavirus-related rules, the government has warned.
China’s National Immigration Administration announced on its website on Friday that foreign quarantine evaders and rule-breakers would face consequences as the vast majority of China’s dwindling COVID-19 cases continue to arrive from overseas.
While Chinese citizens can be fined or jailed for breaking quarantine and other public health rules, foreigners could see their visas canceled and find themselves deported from China.
Those who are forcibly expelled would not be permitted to re-enter for between 12 months and 10 years, the SCMP reports.
There have been reports of foreigners breaking public health and quarantine measures, such as three people jumping a queue to get tested in Qingdao and one man who reportedly bit a nurse in Guangzhou who was trying to stop him leaving a hospital.
As almost all foreigners were banned from entering China on March 28, however, the overwhelming majority of new imported coronavirus cases are being carried by Chinese citizens returning from abroad.
China has also grounded most international flights and taken the unprecedented step of asking foreign diplomats not to return to the country until next month.
Just as Chinese people have experienced racism and xenophobia in other parts of the world due to fears of the virus, foreigners in China are now receiving frosty treatment.
In recent weeks there have been reports of ex-pats being refused service at restaurants, bars, and salons and even finding themselves barred from their homes by their residential committees.
There have also been many complaints among the sizable African community in Guangzhou.
Some say they are being unfairly treated after rumors began to circulate about a COIVD-19 outbreak within their community.
Zhao Lijian, the spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, has dismissed the claims of xenophobia and insisted that China will not tolerate any form of discrimination or racism.
Coronavirus situation in China (21.04 updates)
While many parts of the U.S. are under shelter-in-place orders in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, China is beginning to ease some of the restrictions on its residents.
Eager to resume manufacturing, many of China’s factories began opening in late February.
Now, following two months of draconian social-distancing measures due to coronavirus, citizens in China are also able to go out for haircuts, or even visits to the mall.
In Beijing, Apple stores have reopened. And in Wuhan, considered to be the epicenter of the pandemic, public buses and the subway are finally running again.
But fears of a second wave of infections and financial instability may hinder a fast and smooth economic recovery for China.
Now, the U.S. and the rest of the world are closely watching as Chinese citizens attempt to return to normal life, and trying to surmise what the recovery may tell them about their own futures.
Wuhan’s malls and convenience stores reopened in late March, initially requiring visitors to submit to strict temperature checks and show a code on a special app that assigns each person a color-based rating depending on their level of infection risk.
By Saturday (April 18), some smaller stores were allowing customers in without any checks, while boutiques at the Hanjie outdoor shopping mall had stopped checking health codes.
Even traffic jams have returned, with cars slowing to a crawl on the way to the Wuhan train station and in tunnels under the Yangtze during rush hour last week.
Final-year high school students in the city and the surrounding Hubei province will return to school from May 6, officials said on Monday, while many workers have already returned to their offices.
“It may take a while, but things are moving in a good direction,” Ms. Bai Xue, a 24-year-old Wuhan resident.
But while new infections in the city have dwindled as the city recovers, fear of asymptomatic carriers and cases re-imported from overseas has stopped Wuhan from fully letting down its guard.
Commuters are urged to scan QR codes on subway trains to register the exact car they take, while lines of people seated on plastic chairs a safe distance apart stretch outside banks across the city.
Residential communities continue to monitor people entering and leaving compounds, while barricades remain on many streets in the metropolis of 11 million people.
Wuhan has reason to be fearful: After emerging in a live animal market late last year, the virus spread like wildfire across the city, infecting more than 50,000 and killing over 3,800 – a toll revised upward last week after authorities admitted errors in counting victims.
The industrial city also faces great economic uncertainty, with businesses ranging from wholesale market sellers to cat cafes. Losses incurred during the lockdown have made rents unaffordable, while continued restrictions on movement within the city are hurting sales.
“We have very, very few customers,” said Ms. Han, the 27-year-old owner of a soy drink stall in central Wuhan.
“Everyone is worried about asymptomatic infected people,” she said. “Business is just not as good as before.”
Authorities are trying to boost spending, releasing nearly US$71 million (S$101.23 million) of “consumption coupons”, offering discounts at supermarkets, malls, restaurants, and bars across the city.
But many restaurants have not reopened, and those operating are only allowed to offer outdoor seating or takeout – making post-lockdown celebrations nearly impossible.
After dark, Wuhan remains a shadow of its former self.
Most nightclubs and bars are still forbidden from operating, with authorities on Sunday warning against the reopening of “self-contained entertainment venues”.
The American-themed Hot & Crazy Sugar Daddy by the Yangtze river was the only establishment open in its neighborhood on Friday night – and completely devoid of customers.
In the area near Wuhan University, streets were empty on Saturday as roadside eateries popular with students remained closed.
The Huquan Night Market lay silent behind plastic barricades.
Wuhan residents told they were wary of celebrating too much, too soon.
What are the new rules?
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said it was “suspending the entry of foreign nationals” because of the “rapid spread of Covid-19 across the world”.
The suspension applies to people with visas and residence passes, but not to diplomats or those with C visas (usually aircraft crew).
People with “emergency humanitarian needs” or those working in certain fields can apply for exceptions.
Although the rules seem dramatic, many foreign airlines had already stopped flying to China – and a number of cities already had restrictions for arrivals.
Last month, for example, Beijing ordered everyone to return to the city into a 14-day quarantine.
The number of new cases of the coronavirus reported across China is significantly down, a very positive sign that the measures taken to contain the virus have been working.
Outside of Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak, the number of new cases since mid-February has been extremely low.
Tianjin for example, a city of 15 million people, has seen zero new cases since 27th February. Shanghai has only seen 9 new cases since 26th February. Chongqing has seen no new cases since 24th February. Fujian, an entire province of 38 million people, has seen no new cases since 26th February. Similar numbers can be seen all over China.
“Schools, factories, public spaces, and tourism destinations are starting to reopen.” (South China Morning Post)
“In the rest of mainland China, outside Hubei, there were only five new confirmed cases, the health commission said.” 5th March (Reuters)
“The Chinese mainland reported seven new confirmed cases of the COVID-19 on Wednesday 11th March outside Hubei Province, the NHC said.” (Business Standard)
“China is already, and rightfully, working to bolster its economy, reopen its schools and return to a more normal semblance of its society, even as it works to contain the remaining chains of COVID-19 transmission.” Source: Report of the WHO-China Joint Mission on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
What is Wuhan coronavirus?
The Wuhan coronavirus, known as 2019-nCoV, has mainly affected the city of Wuhan, in central China, with 80% of all cases occurring in Wuhan and the surrounding cities of Hubei province.
The virus causes flu symptoms, and those who have fallen ill are reported to suffer coughs, fever and breathing difficulties. Wuhan and some surrounding cities have been quarantined with people being told to stay at home, in an effort to prevent it from being spread.
The recovery rate has been rising, nearly 6,000 people now, and as the virus runs its course, the recovery rate is expected to continue rising over the coming weeks.
In cities in China, people are taking precautions to limit the spread by:
– wearing masks in crowded places
– washing hands regularly
– avoiding touching face before washing hands
– avoiding close contact with anyone that has flu-like symptoms
The media have been making things seem a lot scarier than the situation is.
To put things in perspective, these are the figures for regular flu:
“Influenza has already sickened at least 13 million Americans this winter, hospitalizing 120,000 and killing 6,600, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And flu season hasn’t even peaked. In a bad year, the flu kills up to 61,000 Americans.
Worldwide, the flu causes up to 5 million cases of severe illness worldwide and kills up to 650,000 people every year, according to the World Health Organization.”
WHO Travel Advice
When in airports and planes to China it is advised to wear a face mask and keep your hands sanitized to be on the safe side.
The World Health Organization has “advises against the application of any restrictions of international traffic based on the information currently available on this event.” (source).
Some airlines have temporarily limited or canceled flights to cities in China.
We will keep updated with the airline policies over the coming days and weeks.
It is still possible to fly to an Asian country near China, such as Hong Kong, Singapore or South Korea and then to fly on to China.
Treatment & Cures
Hong Kong researchers have already developed a vaccine for the coronavirus but will need time for testing.
Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Moderna, and the University of Queensland are working on a vaccine.
Bloomberg has also reported here that Thailand has had good results treating a Chinese man with two antiviral drugs. “The patient’s condition significantly improved within 48 hours after the medical team decided to use antiviral drugs originally used for HIV and influenza in his treatment”.
China has also been using HIV drugs, lopinavir, and ritonavir to treat the virus successfully:
“Wang Guangfa, a respiratory expert at Peking University First Hospital in Beijing who was infected by the virus after visiting Wuhan to inspect to coronavirus patients, told China News Week earlier this week that his doctor recommended he take the HIV drugs to fight the new virus and they worked on him.” (source)
Q&A by China’s National Immigration Administration concerning immigration/exit and entry during this period that we think might be helpful:
Are foreigners allowed entry or exit as usual during the period of epidemic prevention and control of the Wuhan novel coronavirus? Will the virus outbreak affect my work permit processing?
The Chinese government has taken a series of active measures since the outbreak of pneumonia caused by the novel coronavirus.
Currently, all ports of entry and exit (with the exception of the lockdown of the exit and entry channels in Wuhan) are operating but with strict control – reduced cross border movements, reduced flights, and temperature screenings at all airports.
Foreigners can enter or exit as usual with valid travel documents. Due to the virus outbreak, the government pushed the end of the Chinese New Year holiday from January 30 to February 09.
However, the labor bureau and PSB, government authorities in charge of work permit processing, and issuance of residence permits respectively will be operating from February 03, 2020.
How do foreigners apply for visas or residence permits during this period?
All exit-entry administration (EEA) authorities in China will be in full service for extension and issuance of visa and residence permits to ensure foreigners’ legitimate stay in China.
Urgent services for emergencies will also be provided. EEA authorities will make arrangements for services on appointments to avoid risks involved with crowd gatherings during this period.
Institutions that host high numbers of foreigners, such as universities, scientific research institutes, and business enterprises, will also be allowed additional agent services or provide other necessary conveniences depending on the situation.
What can foreigners do to cooperate during the epidemic prevention and control?
EEA advises that all foreign ex-pats in China enhance self-protection, avoid crowded public places, and actively cooperate with local communities and inviting entities by taking part in precautionary measures.
National Immigration Authorities at all levels are working closely with relevant departments to provide consultancy to foreigners, assist in disease screening and diagnosis with medical departments as well as dealing with other difficulties and problems encountered by foreigners during their stay in China.