As the “CCP virus” outbreaks across China continue to worsen, Chinese central authorities recently issued conflicting policies on traveling during the Lunar New Year travel holiday, causing confusion.
And after months of authorities blaming local outbreaks on contaminated imported foods, the central government’s State Council suddenly did an about-face and said food is unlikely to spread the virus.
Some China analysts said the conflicting rhetoric may be due to the different priorities within the Party’s factions.
And in Harbin, the Party punished 12 officials for failing to contain the local outbreak. They were taken in for questioning.
The CCP Central Committee’s General Office, as well as, 29 provincial and city governments, issued conflicting policies to discourage people from traveling for the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday, which falls on February 12 this year. Celebrations last up to 16 days, but only the first 7 days are considered a public holiday (February 11th–17th, 2021).
Millions typically travel across the country to reunite with families. The peak travel season had already started on Jan. 28. Chinese civil aviation and railway authorities announced that the number of passengers they transported that day was about 70 percent less than the number last year.
But on January 31, China’s State Council, during a press conference, said that people can travel, and that local governments should not forbid people from going back home for the holiday. It also instructed authorities not to require quarantine travelers at home or hotels, and that people traveling from low-risk regions should not be forced to take COVID-19 nucleic acid tests.
Just days earlier on January 25, the CCP Central Committee’s General Office had officially issued a policy mandating that citizens stay put in the areas where they live and not travel for the Lunar New Year.
Chinese provincial and city governments also announced rules for travelers, such as requiring 14 to 28 days quarantine for them, and taking four to seven nucleic acid tests during the quarantine period.
People are required to pay the cost for quarantining and tests out of pocket.
Officials also said that food products cannot transmit the virus to people because the samples that tested positive previously contained inactive virus material; thus, people should feel free to eat imported foods.
But since July 2020, Chinese regime has consistently claimed that local outbreaks were due to imported frozen food products that tested positive for COVID-19. Afraid of getting the disease, Chinese people have been cautious not to buy imported foods.
Imported food products are usually more expensive, and thus generate more profit margins for retailers and provide more sales tax revenue for the state.
China commentator Tang Jingyuan analyzed that the State Council is headed by premier Li Keqiang, while the Party is headed by leader Xi Jinping.
The State Council’s latest instructions hinted that Li was concerned about the economy and wanted people to consume more. Meanwhile, Xi wants to effectively curb the outbreaks so that he can solidify his power.
“No traveling means no family gathering, no gift-giving, and no big dinners,” Tang said. “The Chinese economy was in a very bad shape in 2020, and Li Keqiang must be very worried about losing these big New Year-related revenues.”
Meanwhile, “Xi wrote an article on February 15, 2020, saying he is the one who can lead Chinese people into fighting against this virus. He then claimed frequently that China won or defended against the virus successfully. He needs to maintain this political achievement, which can prove that his ruling is legitimate,” Tang added.
Tang added that Chinese officials likely under-report local outbreaks; because curbing the virus has become the most important political task, they are incentivized to make the outbreak situation look containable and not tell the truth.
On January 31, the central government announced that newly diagnosed COVID-19 patients were detected in northern China’s Jilin, Heilongjiang, and Hebei provinces. But locals said authorities locked down more residential compounds in Shanghai—which likely means some residents were diagnosed with COVID-19 there.
Meanwhile, Suihua city in Jilin Province announced that a newly built makeshift hospital was put into operation and received its first patients that day. This is despite the city only announcing a few hundred patients so far that need to be treated in the hospital.
Suihua also announced its third round of mass COVID-19 testing on all residents as a method to curb the spreading of the virus. Deputy mayor Dong Wenqin said all 10,933 villages and residential compounds in the city were fully locked down and no resident could leave their homes for the past 19 days. Yet, the city still had new infections.
Harbin is in a similar situation. Local residents told that they knew of more infections that authorities didn’t announce.
“Every day, they the government staff picked up residents from our residential compound and our neighboring Lanhe Mingyuan residential compound, who were positive infections,” a resident at Mingda Garden residential compound named Wang Jian said. “They have sealed our doors for a long time, since Jan. 19, but people still get infected.”
A resident at Dajiang Jinzuo residential compound named Chen Hai said his residential compound has detected new patients frequently since it has been sealed off for over a week. Chen added that he and his fellow residents had to take the fourth round of nucleic acid tests.
Sun Ming was taken to a hotel for quarantine after he was identified as a close contact of a diagnosed patient. He said: “All quarantine centers are now filled with people. A lot of confirmed patients’ close contacts are being quarantined at home now because no quarantine center has a free room.”
Shanghai residents said that the outbreak in Shanghai was worsening but authorities were covering it up.
“Now the government is building a makeshift hospital for COVID-19 patients in Pudong district, and a makeshift quarantine center in Songjiang district,” Chen said. “Don’t trust the official announcements. The regime won’t tell you the truth.”
Chen obtained a construction blueprint of the makeshift quarantine center in Songjiang district, at the southwestern corner of Shanghai, which he shared with this publication.
Shanghai residents previously said that the city was building a makeshift hospital in Pudong. On January 27, the Shanghai government claimed that it was not a hospital facility but an affordable apartment project.
Local residents shared a video online disputing the authorities’ claim. The video recorded a manager at the construction field telling locals that it was a hospital.
Another resident shared a video showing that dozens of container rooms—similar to those that have been used by Chinese authorities to build makeshift facilities during this pandemic—were being transported to the field.