Asia Is China coming out of lockdown too soon? Packed tourist spots make...

Is China coming out of lockdown too soon? Packed tourist spots make health experts fear a second wave of COVID-19 cases

In Beijing, parks and open spaces were crammed with people, and Shanghai's go-to spots, like the famed Bund waterfront, were filled with folks shopping, dining out and being leisurely—as if a global pandemic was not still ongoing

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Some of the original opinions and research in this article can be attributed to Ben Wescott and David Culver of CNN.

Daily figures on the COVID-19 pandemic reflect something remarkable. China, where the virus first appeared, is no longer the epicentre of the outbreak. In fact, it’s not even in the top five countries with the most infected cases and virus fatalities.

With most of China having been placed under some form of lockdown for months, the country is finally beginning to emerge from its national quarantine. The government, optimistic thanks to the much-decreased infection rate, has been tentatively relaxing restrictions and allowing people back out into the public again.

At the peak of the outbreak, China was reporting thousands of new coronavirus cases daily. This led to the government placing the entire country under strict lockdown measures for months. In recent weeks, however, the rate of infection has slowed significantly. On Monday (Apr 6), China declared only 39 new cases, which were all imported except for one. Currently, China’s case count stands at 81,708, and the country has had 3,331 deaths caused by the virus.

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With people now being given more personal freedoms, Chinese health experts are urging people to continue to practice caution and observe proper hygiene.

Releasing people from lockdown, however, is akin to releasing a wild animal from its too-small cage. People have been cooped up, suffering from “lockdown fever” (a COVID-19 version of cabin fever) and dying to be set free.

Over the weekend, China celebrated the Qing Ming Jie holidays. Newly-released from lockdown, people flocked to popular leisure spots and tourist destinations across major Chinese cities. Despite strict warnings from health authorities that risk of catching COVID-19 still remained high, people were not to be deterred to exercise their recently-returned freedoms.

So they gathered. In large numbers. And though many people can be seen wearing masks, like in the rather shocking image below from the Huangshan mountain park in Anhui province, they are packed distressingly close together, social distancing be damned.

No social distancing measures were observed in Huangshan Park over the weekend. Photo: Tom Guo Facebook

On Saturday (Apr 4), thousands of people took to Huangshan mountain park, eager to shake off months of lockdown woes and get a renewed taste of being out in nature. The park was so overwhelmed with visitors that authorities had to start turning people away, and it wasn’t even 8 in the morning. Apparently, as reported by state media Global Times, the park had already reached its 20,000 person daily limit.
In Beijing, parks and open spaces were crammed with people, and Shanghai’s go-to spots, like the famed Bund waterfront, were filled with folks shopping, dining out and being leisurely—as if a global pandemic was not still ongoing.
The People’s Daily, the ruling Communist Party’s official paper, admonished tourists and locals alike—”Do not gather!” In the words of an opinion writer on the newspaper’s site, now is not the time to cease being “vigilant”, even though people are itching to move around and enjoy themselves.
The commentary noted that the “consequences would be severe” should there be any asymptomatic carriers at the large-scale gatherings. The paper also reported that Huangshan mountain park has since closed its doors to tourists.

“China is not near the end, but has entered a new stage. With the global epidemic raging, China has not reached the end,” said Zeng Guang, chief epidemiologist with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in a conversation with Health Times last week.

Taking the decrease in new infections as a good sign, the Chinese government has slowly begun to kick the country’s manufacturing and service industries into gear, hoping to begin the process of restoring its battered economy.
However, the government has shown caution and concern that opening things up too quickly could set off a second wave of infections in the country.
Although movie theatres were supposed to open again in late March, authorities have pushed the date back. Many popular tourist destinations in Shanghai were open for just 10 days before they were closed again on March 31.
Hong Kong epidemiologist Yuen Kwok-yung told local journalists on Sunday (Apr 5) that mainland China could see a “new wave” of COVID-19 cases, specifically from imported infections stemming from Europe and the United States.
To prevent the further spread of the coronavirus, China has to come out of lockdown with delicate precision. Last weekend might have proven that it’s still too early. /TISG
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