For 55 days, the Chinese capital has not reported any locally infected infections and life has returned to normal. Businesses and schools reopened, people went back to work, and the city’s public transport and parks were once again crowded.
The position of the Communist Party’s power and the fires of epidemics in Beijing, previously considered one of the safest cities in the country, is a reminder of how easy it is to return to places where the virus is thought to have been contaminated.
Five days before the start of the current outbreak, Beijing officials have reduced the city’s four-level public health emergency response alert from level 2 to level 3. It was raised to Level 2 on Tuesday night.
Such cautionary tales have repeatedly occurred in recent months, with governments reviving after the initial infection numbers were put under control.
The second wave of infections
In China, early infections were high by the end of March, largely thanks to the lockdown measures, which halted much of the country. As the outbreak intensified in other countries, China closed its borders to many foreigners, put rigorous checks at airports and detained all returning Chinese citizens. Despite preventive measures, local epidemic groups were blown up in the north-east of the country in April and May, all linked to imported cases.
But the current outbreak in Beijing is still the worst revival of the coronavirus, and officials are still trying to determine its source.
“This outbreak in Beijing probably did not begin in late May or early June, but probably a month earlier,” said Gao Fu, director of the China Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at a meeting in Shanghai on Tuesday.
“(The market) should have a lot of symptom-free or mild cases, which is why a lot of the virus is detected in the environment,” he says.
Over the past few months, some Chinese health professionals have warned against a second wave of infections, repeatedly claiming the success of the government in spreading Chinese media and disagreeing with the failures of Western governments.
“The majority … at the moment the Chinese are infected with the Covid-19 infection because of a lack of immunity,” Zhang said. “We are facing (a) big challenge. At the moment, it is no better than foreign countries I think.”
The outbreak is “under control”
The outbreak in Beijing is the latest test of China’s coronavirus control strategy.
On Thursday, China’s CDC chief epidemiologist Wu Xunyu hit a successful tone and announced that the outbreak in Beijing was already “under control.”
Wu said there are likely to be new confirmed cases with the market in the coming days – but not because of the latest broadcast.
“Newly diagnosed cases every day are not the same as new infections, and outbreaks do not mean that there will be no new cases tomorrow,” Wu said.
“Cases will be reported tomorrow and the next day. These reported cases are a process of detecting previous infections. Not new infections. New infections are rare,” Wu said.
The chief epidemiologist says that with a large number of global new cases, the new outbreak in Beijing is not unexpected.
“As long as there are risks of imported cases, small-scale groups caused by imported infections and imported infections can occur anywhere in China. From this perspective (the Beijing outbreak) is common,” he said.
Steven Jiang of CNN contributed to the reporting.