As of May 19, China’s National Health Commission reported 193 new confirmed cases in 31 provinces. Beijing’s government confirmed 58 local cases.
U.S. microbiologist and former researcher at the Walter Reed Army Research Institute Xiaoxu Sean Lin, claims that Beijing is under a semi-closure. He questions whether the authorities are manipulating the number of new cases to “avoid a repeat of Shanghai’s total closure.”
At present, Shanghai is still divided into around 3,400 closed and controlled areas with around 790,000 people. Meanwhile, around 16,000 areas are in control with a population of around 2.7 million people.
Beijing’s epidemic intensifies and Fengtai District upgrades prevention measures
As of May 17, Beijing reported over 1,200 new cases of COVID-19 and authorities announced that it has upgraded its prevention measures.
The Chinese government issued a notice on the adjustment of the risk level for Chaoyang District 3, Fangshan District 4, and Tongzhou District 1.
In addition, as of May 19, there are 15 high-risk areas and 23 medium-risk areas in the city.
According to the Global Times, some clustered outbreaks were spotted and under control.
The first one is the Yuezhuang wholesale market in Fengtai. The officials considered this cluster to be the top priority of the current epidemic in Beijing.
Data from the Beijing Center for Disease Control and Prevention on May 18 shows that 78 cases are from the market. The Fengtai District has been upgraded and controlled.
Another clustered outbreak with 21 reported infections is at Yunda Express, a courier services company in Fangshan district. Meanwhile, the number of cases on China Railways has risen to 68, and another clustered outbreak has been linked to bus drivers.
According to Bloomberg, Beijing has locked down some areas in Fengtai.
Authorities have launched three rounds of mass testing in four districts—Chaoyang, Fangshan, Shunyi and Fengtai — and residents are advised to do their home office.
In addition, Beijing has closed 100 subway stations and hundreds of bus routes to slow down the virus’ spread. According to the Chinese language media Kanzhongguo, 670 teachers and students on the campus of the Beijing Institute of Technology were transferred to quarantine sites after a positive case was found.
According to Xu Hejian, Deputy Director at the Beijing Municipal Party Committee, the clustered epidemics in Beijing and sporadic cases continue to affect society.
Xiaoxu Sean Lin said in an interview with VOA that Beijing wants to control the current local epidemic situation. According to Lin, Beijing is actually “semi-closed.”
For example, according to Lin, Beijing closes 8 out of 10 neighborhoods in a large area and says there is a semi lockdown. This is a strategy to avoid saying the city is under full closure. Also, authorities do not want international media or observers to say Beijing is in the same state as Shanghai.
Chinese government may manipulate the number of cases to defend the upcoming National 20th Congress
Lin explains that the Chinese government’s handling of the outbreak in both Shanghai and Beijing reflects the communist party infighting between central and local forces. As he said, the Chinese central government is working hard to keep its power and maintain the glorious image of leading the so-called “victory over the epidemic.”
According to Tang Hao, host at We Media, China’s influence will decline as the international economy and China’s economy gradually decouple. He believes that China’s economy has become the main battlefield for infighting among factions in Zhongnanhai. Tang adds that the economic downturn has brought Xi Jinping’s re-election crisis.
Both Tang Hao and Xiaoxu Lin agree that how the Chinese government handles the epidemic in Shanghai or Beijing brings a sense of crisis to Xi Jinping’s re-election.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director at WHO said that the “Zero COVID” policy was unsustainable. He said, [quote] “We have discussed this issue with Chinese experts. And we indicated that the approach will not be sustainable… I think a shift would be very important.”
Tedros’ comments were quickly removed from major Chinese media and news platforms.