SHANGHAI — China has flooded cities and villages with battalions of neighborhood busybodies, uniformed volunteers and Communist Party representatives to carry out one of the biggest social control campaigns in history.
The goal: to keep hundreds of millions of people away from everyone but their closest kin.
The nation is battling the coronavirus outbreak with a grass-roots mobilization reminiscent of Mao-style mass crusades not seen in China in decades, essentially entrusting front line epidemic prevention to a supercharged version of a neighborhood watch.
Housing complexes in some cities have issued the equivalents of paper hall passes to regulate how often residents leave their homes. Apartment buildings have turned away their own tenants if they have come from out of town. Train stations block people from entering cities if they cannot prove they live or work there. In the countryside, villages have been gated off with vehicles, tents and other improvised barriers.
Despite China’s arsenal of high-tech surveillance tools, the controls are mainly enforced by hundreds of thousands of workers and volunteers, who check residents’ temperature, log their movements, oversee quarantines and — most important — keep away outsiders who might carry the virus.
Residential lockdowns of varying strictness — from checkpoints at building entrances to hard limits on going outdoors — now cover at least 760 million people in China, or more than half the country’s population, according to a New York Times analysis of government announcements in provinces and major cities. Many of these people live far from the city of Wuhan, where the virus was first reported and which the government sealed off last month.
BEIJING (AP) — A recent speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping that has been published by state media indicates for the first time that he was leading the response to a new virus outbreak from early on in the crisis.
The publication of the Feb. 3 speech was an apparent attempt to demonstrate that the Communist Party leadership had acted decisively from the beginning, but also opens up the Chinese leader to criticism over why the public was not alerted sooner.
In the speech, Xi said he gave instructions on fighting the virus on Jan. 7 and ordered the shutdown that began on Jan. 23 of cities at the epicenter of the outbreak. His remarks were published by state media late Saturday.
“On Jan. 22, in light of the epidemic’s rapid spread and the challenges of prevention and control, I made a clear request that Hubei province implement comprehensive and stringent controls over the outflow of people,” Xi told a meeting of the party’s standing committee, its top body.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for tightened control over online discussion and increased policing to ensure “positive energy” and social stability, state media said Saturday, as the country struggles to contain the deadly new coronavirus.
Taiwan reports 1st coronavirus death
There are now at least 68,500 cases worldwide, and at least 1,665 deaths from the Covid-19 virus
Japan found 70 more cases aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship
Second African confirms suspected coronavirus case
Hubei province, the outbreak’s epicenter, reported fewer new infections for the second day
Bill Gates warns “10 million deaths” possible in Africa
China’s facemask shortage likely won’t be over anytime soon
WHO says Beijing’s actions bought the world time, but “we don’t know how much time”
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As we move into the late evening hours of Sunday on mainland China, Taiwan has become the latest country or territory to report a virus-related fatality, the SCMP reports. They join Hong Kong, Japan and the Philippines in having reported virus-related deaths outside China.