New COVID-19 outbreaks threaten reopening and annual legislative meeting

Domestic News
SupChina illustration by Derek Zheng
/ Credit: SupChina illustration by Derek Zheng

In Beijing, most school-aged students (with the exception of grades one to three) will resume classes by June 8 although it’s unclear when universities will resume in-person classes. Efforts have been made to ramp up regular COVID-19 testing capacity throughout China, as the rest of the country continues to reopen and attempts to establish a new normal that keeps the disease at bay.

But reopening is not so easy: Despite reporting no coronavirus deaths for over a month, Chinese authorities remain on high alert for virus infections. A cluster in northeastern China, which had mysterious origins in the Shulan suburb of Jilin City, Jilin Province, earlier this month, is still growing. The SCMP reports:

The small city of Shulan in northeast China has been locked down as a growing cluster of infections threatens to undermine the country’s efforts to contain the coronavirus.

All villages and residential compounds in the city of 700,000, in Jilin province near the Russian border, were sealed off at noon on Monday…

One person per household is allowed out every two days for two hours to buy necessities…

At least 34 people have since been infected in Jilin province and three in neighbouring Liaoning.

Five more officials in Jilin have been thrown out for their failure to contain the outbreak, and more than 8,000 people in Jilin Province have been put into quarantine, per the SCMP.

Why the extreme measures?

The answer is simple: The Two Sessions. The most important political meetings on China’s annual calendar are set to happen in Beijing starting on May 21 and 22, and the leadership cannot afford to have an epidemic outbreak get out of hand at the same time that they — presumably — emphasize that the coronavirus is contained within China’s borders, that normal economic activity should resume as much as possible, and that the world can learn from China’s model.