Beijing, on High Alert as Virus Spreads, Monitors Close Contacts of Those Infected

By Nicole Hao
Nicole Hao
Nicole Hao
Nicole Hao is a Washington-based reporter focused on China-related topics. Before joining the Epoch Media Group in July 2009, she worked as a global product manager for a railway business in Paris, France.
April 28, 2020Updated: April 29, 2020

Chinese authorities have been silent about the CCP virus outbreak in the capital of Beijing, but a local resident recently told The Epoch Times about the current situation inside the city’s quarantine centers, providing a glimpse into the tense atmosphere there.

Meanwhile, an internal government document revealed more details about how authorities monitor close contacts of confirmed patients.

Since the virus spread across China from the ground zero of Wuhan in January, Beijing city enacted restrictions to contain the virus in the politically important region.

On April 19, Chaoyang district in Beijing was officially designated a “high-risk region” for a virus outbreak, after the municipal government announced a cluster outbreak in a family where four members had been diagnosed on April 15.

Since then, the government has not announced any new infections. Authorities also reopened eighty tourist attractions in the city on April 26. These sites were closed in January due to the outbreak. The reopened sites are limited to open-air spaces, and visitors can only buy tickets online.

“The tourist sites are opened now, but you barely see any tourists there,” Mrs. Li, a Beijing resident told the Chinese-language Epoch Times on April 28.

People arriving in Beijing from other regions of China must be quarantined at a hotel for 14 days before going on with their travels. After they return to their homes, travelers must be quarantined again in their hometown for another 14 days. Citizens are required to pay for their stay out of pocket.

Quarantine Centers

Li is familiar with the local tourism business.

As in most regions of China, hotels in Beijing have been converted into quarantine centers.

“Now in Beijing, almost all hotels that are three stars or better are being used by the government as quarantine centers to isolate people temporarily,” Li said.

Li specially mentioned two districts in Beijing—Haidian district, which is close to the Xiaotangshan makeshift hospital currently dedicated to treating virus patients, and Chaoyang district—where more hotels are being used as quarantine centers.

“They [authorities] used iron barricades to surround and block off the hotels that are used as quarantine centers. They set up three layers of gates to enter the hotels,” Li said. “People who deliver food can enter the first door, then staff who work at hotels can enter the second door. They place the food in front of the third door, and people inside will pick up the food from there.”

Epoch Times Photo
Hospital staff (L) registers patients on the sidewalk outside a children’s hospital in Beijing on March 31, 2020. (GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images)

In March, several interviewees told the Chinese-language Epoch Times that there were three options for people who have to self-isolate at quarantine centers in Beijing: luxury hotel, medium-level hotel, and normal hotel, with different facilities, meal quality, and price.

Li said that because most hotels were now used as quarantine centers, hotel room rates for ordinary travelers have become more expensive.

“The hotel would charge 250 yuan ($35.3) for a room that typically charges 100 yuan ($14.1) [per night],” Li said, adding that most hotels in Beijing are now charging rooms in the 200 to 800 yuan ($28 to $113) range.

Leaked Document

The Epoch Times obtained a leaked document from the Chaoyang district government in Beijing, as well as an audio recording of a phone call between a resident living in the Sanjianfang community and a city official.

The document recorded the content of the conversation: resident Mrs. Liu found that she was counted as a close contact of a virus patient on Feb. 13, after she delivered her child at Fuxing Hospital, located in Xicheng district of Beijing.

Liu said she checked all government-released documents and databases, and did not find her name in any close contact lists, so she and her husband complained to the community health service center.

Epoch Times Photo
Screenshot of an internal document released by the Sanjianfang community health service center in Chaoyang district, Beijing, China on Feb. 14, 2020. (Provided to The Epoch Times by Insider)

On Feb. 14, the center’s deputy director, also surnamed Liu, replied to Mrs. Liu and explained that the published close contact lists are from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but there were “other systems” of tracing and recording contacts of a virus patient, such as through people who report infections to other government agencies and artificial intelligence surveillance cameras that can detect individuals who were near a virus patient.

The official then added, “there is another list [from central government], which is top secret.” She explained that even municipal authorities do not know how these lists were compiled, but must comply with orders to quarantine those on the list. “According to the rules, you need to be isolated at a quarantine center. We allowed you to be quarantined at home because you just delivered a baby,” she explained to Mrs. Liu.