Following a local uptick in COVID-19 cases, hundreds of villagers in northern China’s Hebei Province were ordered by authorities to isolate themselves at three schools that were converted into quarantine centers.
With no heat or bedding, villagers struggled to stay warm as temperatures dropped below freezing.
“The children kept on crying all night because of the cold,” a villager Liu Lin (pseudonym) told the Chinese-language Epoch Times in a Jan. 8 interview. “They [government officials] said our village is a high-risk region for contracting the virus, and all four-thousand-plus villagers would be sent to quarantine centers step by step.”
Parts of the region have entered lockdown to curb the spread of local outbreaks. Authorities confirmed at least 295 cases in the province, though the figure is unreliable due to the Chinese regime’s history of coverup.
On Jan. 8, state-run CCTV quoted Tong Chaohui, a specialist from China’s National Health Commission, who said the outbreak in Hebei had not yet reached its peak. During mass COVID-19 testing, many local people were detected with antibodies in their bloodstream, he noted. The body typically develops antibodies in 10 days or two weeks after contracting the CCP virus.
As of press time, authorities had not announced any deaths related to the latest surge. On Jan. 7, police in Baoding city announced that they detained a 27-year-old man Yang Shuoning who posted on the popular social media platform WeChat that over 200 people had died in Shijiazhuang city, the epicenter of the latest outbreak.
The police said Yang posted the information in a chat group with friends and neighbors on Friday The police claimed that the information was not true, and Yang would be detained for six days and fined 100 yuan ($15.44) for spreading rumors.
Xiaoguozhuang village is in Gaocheng district, Shijiazhuang. The villagers have been isolated in their homes since Jan. 2, when the first villager was diagnosed with COVID-19.
Since Jan. 5, Shijiazhuang authorities began removing villagers from their homes and sent them to quarantine centers.
On social media, villagers said they had to follow instructions or else face fines or detention.
Liu told the Chinese-language Epoch Times that officials arranged for her to move on Thursday evening.
“Nobody told us where they would send us to or whether we needed to prepare for something,” Liu recalled. “When I arrived at the gathering point, there were four shuttle buses. The one I took had about 30 villagers inside.”
Liu and her fellow villagers found out that they would be sent to an empty school that was converted into a quarantine center. There was no hot water, no heating, no separated bathroom stalls, and the temperature was minus 14 degrees Celsius (6.8 degrees Fahrenheit) when they arrived.
Liu and her fellow villagers then started to contact all possible channels to ask for help. Finally, after almost 24 hours in the cold, authorities arranged for them to move to a hotel.
“Ten shuttle buses arrived to pick us up. We had almost 600 people at the school,” Liu said. “However, our trip to the hotel was very difficult, because Pingshan county, where the hotel is located, didn’t allow us to enter [at first].”
County officials said the virus could be easily transmitted in a contained space, so they stopped the buses on the highway and let the door open to allow air circulation. “It was minus 17 degrees Celsius (1.4 degrees Fahrenheit) outside,” Liu said. “The babies were crying for hours and hours, and the old people were trembling.”
The trip eventually took over ten hours. Liu said there was no way to maintain social distancing as she and fellow villagers were forced to share a room initially at the school, then transported in a bus with over 50 people inside.
According to Chinese media Yicai, villagers were sent to the Lianzhou No. 1 Middle School, Gaocheng No. 4 Middle School, and Gaocheng Vocational School. All three schools had no heating.
By the end of Jan. 8, over 1,000 villagers were sent to quarantine centers, while another 3,000 villagers were still at home, according to Yicai.
Food Prices Skyrocket
Ms. Zhang (pseudonym) lives in downtown Xingtai, another city in Hebei with a severe outbreak. She told the Chinese-language Epoch Times on Thursday that local food prices have skyrocketed.
“Current prices are five to six times more than the prices a few days ago, before the lockdown,” Zhang said.
Zhang said cooking oil, meat, vegetables, and grains have all become more expensive. “I bought three anaheim peppers, which cost over ten yuan ($1.54),” Zhang complained.
Zhang said that though authorities have claimed all new infections are in Nangong, a locale administered by Xingtai city, all of Xingtai has become tense.
“Some residential compounds have organized all residents for nucleic acid tests [for COVID-19]. The residential compound where I live hasn’t done this yet, but asked us to stay at home,” Zhang said.
A business owner in Nangong told the Chinese-language Epoch Times that the whole area was locked down, and residents in the compounds where diagnosed COVID-19 patients live were not allowed to leave their apartments.
His store was sealed off by police on Dec. 30, 2020 due to the outbreak. “I guess they won’t unseal us in January,” he predicted. “Nobody is allowed to enter or leave. All buses have stopped operating, and schools are closed.”