‘No One Left Alone’: Northern Chinese City on Edge as Virus Outbreak Spreads

August 2, 2020 Updated: August 2, 2020

A woman was dragged off the street in the northeastern Chinese port city of Dalian while shopping, and streets were bleached white as authorities disinfected the city ahead of a high-profile official visit.

At a local elementary school where mass testing was being offered, fights broke out as people attempted to cut in line among those who had begun lining up before dawn.

Over the past week, these scenes unfolded in Dalian, as a third wave outbreak of COVID-19 has since spread to nine cities across five Chinese provinces, including Beijing. The climbing virus cases prompted a visit from Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, whose last inspection tour was to Wuhan, the world’s first CCP virus hotspot.

Dalian officials have again set up drastic lockdown measures that have given rise to residents’ complaints about virus testing mismanagement and food shortages.

Workers collect swabs for nucleic acid testing at a makeshift testing site in Dalian
Workers in protective suits collect swabs for nucleic acid testing at a makeshift testing site, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Dalian, China, on July 26, 2020. (China Daily via Reuters)

The city entered into “wartime mode” on July 23, a day after officials identified a seafood company as ground zero of the new outbreak. Three days later, officials mandated that all 6.9 million residents in the city be tested for COVID-19.

Authorities didn’t trust the veracity of the first round of nucleic acid testing and said on July 30 that a second round of testing on residents in “high-risk” regions would begin.

“No one is left alone in the entire Dalian,” said Wang Ping (an alias), a neighborhood committee officer in Dalian Bay. The area is considered one of the worst-hit in the city and has come under full lockdown since July 26. No one can enter or exit the neighborhood at the moment, he said.

When a case emerges, authorities seal off the entire building where the patient lives.

Wang, who sometimes has to work until 3 a.m. to test local residents, said he has “never done such stressful work in my life,” noting that sweat had soaked through his shirt.

Testing Mayhem

On July 30, health authorities temporarily cordoned off a major shopping mall for disinfecting, and a customer was taken away by ambulance on suspicion that she may have contracted the virus.

The customer had received a call from officials moments earlier asking for her whereabouts, an onlooker told The Epoch Times. They asked the customer to “stay put,” after she replied that she had gone shopping. Everyone in the mall was tested, according to the passerby.

Residents wait for groceries delivered to an entrance of a sealed residential compound in Dalian
Residents wait for groceries delivered to an entrance of a sealed residential compound, after new cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) were confirmed in Dalian, Liaoning province, China, on July 23, 2020. (China Daily via REUTERS)

City officials gave a slightly different account during a July 31 press conference, saying they closed the mall after identifying a worker at the mall surnamed Wang as a “key suspected” virus case.

Meanwhile, locals who visited public testing sites expressed anger over what they saw as haphazard management and chaos.

Ms. Liu from the Xinchang residential compound woke up at 6 a.m., thinking she could arrive early at the testing site in Xinzhaizi Primary School. When she arrived, hundreds had already lined up at the gate. Some, she learned, got in line as early as 3 a.m.

“No one had any idea where to line up or to register for testing,” she said in an interview.

After the gate opened at about 8 a.m. and security guards disappeared, the crowd fell into disarray, Liu said. With no one maintaining order, many squeezed their way forward and fought with each other or argued with medical staff. Growing frustrated, Liu left for a local hospital to have her family tested.

Epoch Times Photo
Residents are crowded together at a COVID-19 nucleic acid test site in Dalian, China, on July 27, 2020. (Provided to The Epoch Times)

Property management officers offered “outsiders” first dibs on testing kits, but turned away some residents who had waited for more than 10 hours, said Mr. Li, a resident of the Jumei Dongwan neighborhood compound. Angered, people hurled water bottles at the officers and got into fistfights.

Food Shortage

Food supplies also became a concern after the outbreak led to local markets and neighborhoods shutting down. Ms. Yan, who lives in Beijing but has family in Dalian Bay, told The Epoch Times that her parents only had potatoes left—which had been stocked when prices were still cheap, she said.

Zhang Yu (an alias), under lockdown in his apartment in Dalian Bay, said that he and neighbors were allowed to get some fresh air in the evenings, but going out on the streets would risk violating authorities’ mandatory quarantine.

“Every day, the sound of disinfecting, ambulances, and the loudspeaker of the security workers—all of that goes into your ears,” he said in an interview. “When is this going to come to an end?”

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