China Emphasizes Threat of Imported Coronavirus Cases in Latest State-Media Narrative

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.
March 16, 2020Updated: March 16, 2020

After downplaying the severity of China’s epidemic, the Chinese regime has begun focusing its attention on imported cases of the novel coronavirus; in other words, patients who arrive in China after becoming infected with the virus while outside China.

State media emphasized the threat of imported cases, while Beijing launched new legal guidelines on March 16 to punish anyone who imports the virus into China.

The regime’s official figures claim that there are now more imported cases than new domestic infections.

However, authorities have opened new medical facilities to treat virus patients in Beijing and Wuhan, suggesting that there are more patients in need of treatment than officially stated.

The Epoch Times previously obtained internal government documents that detail how authorities are underreporting confirmed diagnoses and destroying relevant data.

In recent interviews with Chinese citizens, the epicenter of China’s epidemic, they explained that many around them are ill with coronavirus-related symptoms, while hospitals are still full of patients.

But China’s National Health Commission (NHC) only reported 16 new infections on March 15, with 4 from the epicenter, the city of Wuhan, and 12 imported cases.

Some experts are also concerned that China may experience another big outbreak after authorities lifted quarantine measures and encouraged them to return to work.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the United States’ National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during an interview with ABC on March 15: “As they [China] start getting back to normal personal interaction, I hope we don’t see the second blip, but it’s possible.”

More Hospital Beds

NHC spokesman Mi Feng said at a March 16 press conference: “Preventing the imported cases has already become the most important task of China’s epidemic prevention and control.”

That day, China’s highest court, top prosecutor’s office, Ministry of Public Security (in charge of police), Ministry of Justice, and General Administration of Customs jointly launched new guidelines, saying that anyone who brings the virus into China can be punished by law.

Meanwhile, the Beijing government reopened a field hospital used during the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak in 2002-2003, the Xiaotangshan Hospital. It arranged for hundreds of medical staff to work there.

“The hospital has 1,000 beds, dedicated to treating people from other countries, including COVID-19 [disease caused by the virus] patients in mild and moderate condition, and suspected patients,” state-run media Xinhua reported.

But thus far, Beijing’s health commission has only reported a total of 37 imported cases in the city.

Shanghai also has a field hospital—Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center—for treating coronavirus patients. On Jan. 23, Beijing News reported that more than 240 medical staff were dispatched to this facility, which has 660 hospital beds.

On Feb. 10, Caixin reported that Shanghai authorities started to construct more buildings in the hospital complex, but did not provide more details. Wuhan city built its field hospital Huoshenshan Hospital in 10 days, which have 1,000 beds.

On March 15, Wuhan netizens shared a video on social media, explaining that authorities were quietly building a new makeshift hospital in a suburb near Wuhan, which would supply 4,000 beds. This information could not be independently verified by The Epoch Times.

Ms. Li

Ms. Li, a Chinese national who returned to China from the United States, could be the first person to be punished under the new regulations.

Beijing city police announced that it would investigate Ms. Li on March 16, because she was infected with the virus in the United States, but did not report her illness to Chinese authorities.

The regime has promoted this case in media articles criticizing the U.S. government for not diagnosing patients properly.

During a press conference in Beijing, Pang Xinghuo, deputy director of Beijing city’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said that Li holds a Chinese passport and works for an American firm in Massachusetts.

She exhibited mild symptoms while in the United States. Her doctor recommended that she self-quarantine at home.

She decided to seek hospital treatment in China, taking a flight from Boston to Los Angeles, then a flight from Los Angeles to Beijing, with her husband and son, according to Peng.

Pang said Li took fever-reducing medication to lower her body temperature, which helped her to pass body temperature screenings when she boarded the flights.

After arriving in Beijing, she was diagnosed with COVID-19 and treated at a local hospital. Li’s husband and son were placed under quarantine as suspected patients.

On March 16, Endpoints News quoted public health officials in Massachusetts as saying that Li works for the biotech firm Biogen. She attended a Biogen meeting at the Marriott Long Wharf in Boston on Feb. 26-27—where most of the infections in Massachusetts stem from.

State officials said on March 14 that 104 diagnosed cases in the state are related to the meeting. At the time of writing, there are currently 164 confirmed infections in the entire state.