The surge of COVID-19 cases in Hebei Province since the year began has now become a new focal point of China’s epidemic.
Up to now, Shijiazhuang, Xingtai, and Langfang—the cities with the most CCP virus infections—have implemented “sealed off management.” Thousands of villagers have been taken away for “centralized isolation.” It appears the Chinese regime is avoiding the term “lockdown” in an attempt to downplay the severity of the outbreak.
A major feature of this outbreak in Hebei is that it is concentrated in rural areas. This goes against experts’ previous hypothesis that the risk of transmission in rural areas is less than in urban cities.
What is the reason that rural areas have become the hardest-hit regions? And why are authorities taking away villagers to be isolated in other places?
According to Qi Shunxiang, director of the virology institute at the Hebei Center for Disease Control and Prevention, villagers being isolated at home is likely to cause transmission between family members and neighbors. In addition, sanitary conditions in villages are relatively poor. In villages, it is also difficult to isolate sick family members from those who are healthy—hence the need for villagers to be taken to “centralized isolation” centers.
In an interview with state broadcaster CCTV, Qi also mentioned that to build a centralized isolation facility in Shijiazhuang, a power company had to set up electricity. This clearly shows that the area lacked electricity.
CCTV did not mention this, but based on Epoch Times interviews with locals, many of the infected patients were farmers. When they experienced symptoms, they were initially treated as the common cold. Suddenly so many villagers caught a cold, and local medical facilities were not alert.
Due to the lack of heating in rural housing, it is common for villagers to catch colds during the winter. Regarding the lack of sufficient heating in northern counties, villages, and towns, the following are some of the opinions expressed by local netizens:
“It’s been the third year since coal-to-gas conversion was set up in Yongnian district, Handan city, Hebei Province. The gas supply is insufficient this year. We have been freezing! The gas stopped in the middle of the night! I woke up and found that the room was 2 degrees [Celsius, about 35 degrees Fahrenheit]!”
“This year we changed coal to gas in Qinghe county, Xingtai city, Hebei Province. We often had the gas cut off during the deep winter… [The conversion] met the needs of environmental protection, but who will solve the heating problem? How can the elderly and children in the family withstand the cold? Not to mention heating, even cooking cannot be done.”
“The gas work in rural areas of Handan, Hebei is being carried out and now, it’s basically fully covered, but serious problems arose in the gas supply and maintenance during winter … No one will take care of the problem. This is now a common phenomenon at the grassroots level.”
The epidemic situation in Shijiazhuang reflects the reality of how people in the countryside live: heating supply is insufficient, medical facilities are still very backward, and authorities were not transparent about the outbreak.
According to official sources, on Jan. 2, a 61-year-old female living in Xiaoguozhuang village, Zengcun town, Chaocheng district, felt chills and chest tightness, accompanied by coughing of phlegm. Her body temperature was 38.7 degrees Celsius (about 101.6 degrees Fahrenheit) when she took the temperature at 4 a.m. Accompanied by her family, she took a rental car to the Second Affiliated Hospital of Hebei Medical University for treatment. She tested positive for COVID-19 and became the first case confirmed by authorities in the latest virus resurgence in Hebei.
State media outlets praised the woman for thinking of going to the hospital and getting treatment before she could have spread the virus further. But they failed to note that it wasn’t until she went to the hospital that she got tested for COVID-19. Think about it. How many similar situations have occurred in rural areas of China? How many people could have spread the disease unknowingly? Could the virus have spread quietly in rural areas for the past year?
A netizen in Guangzhou city, Guangdong Province revealed that his colleague recently went back to his hometown in Hebei. The colleague wanted to pay for a nucleic acid test upon arriving in Guangzhou. After running around several local hospitals, he was kicked out. Staff told him he needed to schedule an appointment. The netizen worried that a virus outbreak could spread in Guangzhou if recent travelers from Hebei were not screened.
This outbreak in Hebei has severely affected not only villages, but also neighborhoods surrounding Beijing.
Currently, outsiders are not allowed to enter Beijing. Those who commute to work in Beijing have been cut off from their jobs. After the pandemic, I wonder if the work will still be waiting for them. For these commuters, the path to a comfortable life will be extremely difficult.
It can be seen from the above that the Chinese regime’s claim that the country has fully realized the dream of becoming an “affluent” society, or that suspected virus patients are reported in a timely manner, are simply lies. The outbreak in Hebei has also severely disrupted the livelihoods of local farmers and Beijing commuters. The CCP’s mouthpieces should stop bragging about rural areas being lifted out of poverty, or that a moderately prosperous society has been built.
Chen Simin is a freelance writer who often analyzes China’s current affairs. She has contributed to The Epoch Times since 2011.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.