Chinese officials spark fury as they declare lockdown plan for the flu
China announces lockdown plans for the FLU: Officials spark fury by warning areas may be shut down to quell outbreaks of the common virus
Chinese officials want to bring in lockdowns to combat the flu, leaving many furious about a prospect of returning to the strict restrictions seen during the Covid-19 outbreak. The city of Xi’an, in Shaanxi Province in central China, said it may enforce lockdowns ‘when necessary’ if an outbreak of the common flu virus poses a ‘severe threat.’
The emergency response plan for the city published Wednesday is intended to combat the rising number of influenza cases in the country, as Covid-19 cases continue to fall. Authorities in the Chinese city have not suggested that a new set of lockdowns are imminent, but locals in the area have still dubbed the plans as excessive. China’s zero-Covid lockdown plans were implemented throughout the country during the pandemic, and were seen as extreme by many.
The plan by the Xi’an local government accounts for four levels of flu outbreak. If the common virus was to reach a critically high level, fresh lockdowns would likely be reinstated. During the pandemic, Chinese residents were not allowed to come out of their homes. Some were not even allowed to got shopping for food or crucial supplies. The city of Xi’an was placed under some of the strictest lockdown measures by authorities until restrictions were rapidly eased across the country in December last year following mass uproar.
Reacting to the prospect of a return to enforced lockdowns, social media users in China using Weibo said the common flu was a normal virus and did not require lockdown measures prior to Covid. The BBC reported one user saying ‘life went on as per normal’ when influenza outbreaks hit. Another said China’s local governments had become ‘addicted to sealing and controlling.’ Pictured: Residents undergo swab testing at a residential area under lockdown due to Covid-19 coronavirus restrictions in Beijing on November 29, 2022.
Speaking to the BBC, Huang Yanzhong, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, said: ‘To local residents who were traumatised by the lockdown measures not long ago, the return to the same draconian method in coping with flu outbreaks is by no means justified.’ Others urged caution, believing it was unlikely that a return to the strict lockdown was likely.
Professor Tang Renwu of the School of Government at Beijing Normal University told Singapore newspaper Lianhe Zaobao that he expected more local governments to unveil plans for possible flu outbreaks in the coming days. Prof Tang said: ‘Local governments should pay attention to their wording when issuing similar documents so as not to trigger social panic.’ Despite strict lockdowns being implemented during the Covid-19 pandemic throughout China, this was not the first time that such restrictions were planned. In 2015, the Shanghai government said it would restrict gatherings, and recall students from school and people from work if the common flu posed a serious threat.
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