Authorities in the central Chinese city of Wuhan were getting ready to ease restrictions on its 11 million residents this week, with national health adviser Li Lanjuan claiming that the coronavirus has basically been brought under control after two-and-a-half months of lockdown.
But residential communities were still shut down, with officials telling people over 65 not to leave their homes.
All restrictions will be fully lifted on April 8, following a similar easing of restrictions in Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital.
Li told state broadcaster CCTV late on Monday that the epidemic is now “basically under control” in Wuhan.
But he said further control efforts are still under way.
“We have to find out in a timely manner whether there are still infected people in the community who haven’t been counted yet, and to stop the disease spreading in the residential compounds,” he said.
“Generally speaking, Wuhan is doing very well … but there are a small number of patients who have yet to be fully cured,” he said.
Government still cautious
Wuhan residents said they didn’t find Li’s remarks very reassuring.
“The government is still actually being very cautious,” a resident surnamed Peng told RFA on Tuesday. “There are buses and subway trains running, but these services aren’t fully open.”
“They are telling people over 65 to stay home, and basically not leave their homes at all.”
Wuhan resident Sun Zhaoxian said that employers are being required to provide health certificates for anyone returning to work.
“You need a certificate from your employer or your rural or neighborhood committee saying that you have no fever, and you also have to take a nucleic acid test,” Sun said.
“Anyone returning home to different cities and provinces after staying with relatives [during the Lunar New Year holiday lockdown] has to take a nucleic acid test, too,” Sun said.
“The orders have already come through, and people are rushing around trying to get tested.”
People across China are still waiting for the government to publish figures of the number of people who were asymptomatic when they tested positive for coronavirus.
City still locked down
A Hubei resident surnamed Song said Wuhan is still basically under lockdown.
“A friend of mine had to get a nucleic acid test before he was allowed to [leave Wuhan], and they also wanted a certificate from his neighborhood committee,” Song said.
Concerns about asymptomatic spreaders of the coronavirus grew on Sunday after authorities in Henan reported a new confirmed coronavirus case in a man who had had contact with an asymptomatic carrier.
Asymptomatic infections from outside China have also been reported in Dezhou city, Shandong, Guiyang, capital of Guizhou, and Mianyang city, Sichuan.
Government regulations require any asymptomatic infections to be reported online within two hours of confirmation, with the patient quarantined for 14 days pending two successive negative nucleic acid tests.
Numbers not public
But the numbers have yet to be made public.
“The government is hesitating to do that because once they make it public, everyone will feel that they are at risk,” a resident of Wuhan surnamed Zhang told RFA.
“The epidemic is getting worse, and they are relaxing restrictions in one place while locking down another.”
“They need to relax them for people to live their lives, because they can’t afford for [everything to shut down for so long].”
“But as soon as they make things public, they will be under huge pressure once more from international public opinion,” Zhang said.
College entrance exams, normally a time of huge stress for students and parents alike, will be postponed until early July, with possible further posponements likely in Beijing and Hubei.
Some 10 million candidates were expecting to sit the gaokao examination this year.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA’s Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.