As countries around the world reopen borders and ease restrictions on coronaviruses, Beijing is doubling down on its zero Covid strategy. The latest example: a $ 260 million quarantine facility and 5,000 rooms for inbound travelers is expected to open in southern metropolitan Guangzhou in the coming days.
It will replace designated hotels located across Guangzhou to quarantine Chinese and international travelers from overseas – a move to reduce residents’ exposure to imported cases.
“It’s arguably the most state-of-the-art quarantine center in the world, if you will – very high-tech, very sophisticated,” said Yanzhong Huang, senior researcher in global health at the Council on Foreign Relations.
The Guangzhou International Health Station, as it is officially named, is the first of its kind in China. But experts say it could be the first in a long series as the Chinese government steps up its no-compromise, zero-tolerance strategy towards the coronavirus.
âThis is not just an interim measure. (Chinese leaders) believe that this pandemic will take some time to end, and China will continue to strictly control its borders,â Huang said. “Facilities like this serve as a means of institutionalizing the zero tolerance strategy.”
For more than 18 months, China has closed its borders to most foreigners. The few people allowed in, as well as returning Chinese citizens, must undergo at least two weeks of mandatory hotel quarantine, followed by at least another week of centralized quarantine or home isolation – including those who are fully vaccinated.
The project got off to a quick start, with more than 4,000 workers assigned to the site. The installation was completed earlier this month and an initial group of 184 medical staff moved in last week to prepare for its official launch.
But on Chinese social networks, calls are increasing for the authorities to extend the quarantine for arrivals abroad. Many have criticized Chinese travelers returning from overseas for bringing the virus to China, especially following the latest outbreak in southern Fujian province.
Initially, experts advising the government identified a man who returned from Singapore more than a month ago as the likely source of the outbreak, though he completed 21 days of quarantine upon arrival, during which time he was tested negative for the virus a total of nine times. . The average incubation period for the Delta variant is approximately four days.
Health experts later reconsidered this theory, saying the man likely caught the virus during centralized quarantine instead. But the clarification has done little to calm calls online for stricter quarantine requirements.
The new Guangzhou quarantine facility will open just in time for the China Import and Export Fair, which begins on October 15. The biannual event, also known as the Canton Fair, is China’s largest trade exhibition, typically attracting tens of thousands of companies from around the world. .
Having been held online so far during the pandemic, next month marks a real-world return for the show – but participation will be limited to exporters and buyers already based in China.
Nonetheless, authorities in Guangzhou have tightened quarantine requirements for all overseas arrivals, increasing their mandatory quarantine from 14 days to 21 days.
Huang, the Council on Foreign Relations expert, said that despite its enormous size, the facility is unlikely to be large enough to accommodate all foreign arrivals. âThink about it. An international flight usually carries 300 people. They all need to be quarantined and stay at least 21 days. It will fill up quickly,â he said.
The disappearance of the Covid cats
Instead, when the cats also tested positive for the virus, the workers euthanized all three without his consent, according to Beijing News, which identified Liu only by his last name.
Liu learned on Monday that his cats’ samples had tested positive for the virus and that slaughtering them was the only option because there is no treatment available for the animal infection. Liu rejected and refused to sign a consent form for the euthanasia, according to Beijing News. The next day, the three cats were still shot.
Without treatment, cats would continue to carry the virus and the household would remain an infected space even after Liu returned from quarantine – risking another outbreak, an anonymous community worker told Beijing News.
CNN contacted officials in the Nangang District, where Liu lives, who said they were not aware of the case.
Liu’s story went viral on the strictly censored Chinese social media platform Weibo, with a related hashtag gaining more than 14 million views. Users were divided, with pet owners and supporters outraged, while others viewed euthanasia as a wise choice during the pandemic.
“The pandemic situation is so dire overseas, but have you ever heard of a report that even a pet has been euthanized?” commented a Weibo user. “For families with pets, pets are part of the family. Why [are we doing this]? “
“I don’t understand why people criticize the country [authorities]Another user wrote. In fact, the treatment of Covid-19 patients has been provided by the state with a lot of money and effort, and medical staff are also at risk of infection … I don’t not understand why everyone is asking the country to spend so much manpower, material and financial resources on the treatment of pets. “