China locked down 50 million people and has to keep them fed China

Beijing, Jan 31 (AP) Carrying permits demanding “fast passage,” truck drivers rushed a 560-ton shipment of disinfectant from eastern China to Wuhan, the locked-down city of 11 million people at the center of a vast effort to contain a new viral disease.

Outside the metropolis in central China, the cargo was shifted to local trucks with drivers in masks and protective suits, part of a tightly controlled flow of food and other supplies through checkpoints that have blocked most access to Wuhan since Jan 23.

As global anxiety about the new virus rises, authorities have blocked 50 million people from leaving Wuhan and nearby cities at the center of the outbreak. That in turn requires a massive effort to keep them supplied with food and other necessities.

“Wuhan is not an isolated island,” declared a state newspaper, the Yangtze Daily.

Few governments could attempt such drastic restrictions on a population bigger than South Korea”s or Australia”s. They are made possible by the ruling Communist Party”s extensive controls on society and experience combating the 2002-03 SARS epidemic.

Some trucks are allowed to leave the 17 locked-down cities to collect food. Photos in state media show them lined up at checkpoints, their drivers wearing face masks. Police, shrouded in white protective suits, examine the drivers for the virus”s telltale fever.

Those without passes are turned back.

Schools, cinemas and restaurants are closed in Wuhan, an industrial center with a population 1 1/2 times that of New York City.

To keep people at home and reduce chances for infection, subway and bus services are shut down and private vehicle use is banned in downtown areas.

The government of Hubei province, where all the cities are located, has promised adequate supplies of vegetables, rice, meat and medical supplies.

It said authorities were working with retailers to bring food from as far away as Yunnan province in the southwest and Hainan island in the South China Sea. A crackdown on hoarding and price-gouging by merchants was announced after food costs spiked.

“Please do not panic, do not hoard, so as not to cause waste,” said a government announcement.

China on Friday reported 9,692 confirmed cases of the virus, which can cause pneumonia and other severe respiratory symptoms. So far 213 have died.

The shipment of disinfectant last Saturday was moved by drivers from two trucking companies in the eastern province of Jiangsu, according to the manager of one of the companies, Huai”an Hazardous Goods Transport Co.
With official passes, the 18 teams of drivers cut the normal 20-hour travel time to 15 hours, according to the manager, Liu Hankang.

“Enterprises must take on this responsibility,” Liu said by phone.

The government has released no details of how it is enforcing travel curbs on smaller roads and villages on the outskirts of the vast locked-down area.

Residents contacted by phone said most supermarkets still have adequate food supplies.

“They can meet our needs for the time being,” said a 40-year-old father of two in Wuhan who would give only his surname, Cai.

Residents are wary of talking to reporters after authorities said eight doctors were punished in December for warning about the emergence of the virus.

Authorities can draw on an extensive surveillance network involving thousands of video cameras, smartphone tracking, monitoring of social media and other technology developed with the help of Western tech companies to protect the party”s monopoly on power.

Hospitals are straining to cope with thousands of virus patients while doctors also treat other cases.

State media say police in protective gear are stationed at hospitals to separate people arriving with fevers and other possible virus symptoms from other patients.

Rui Zhong, a Wuhan native who lives in Washington, D.C., said that her mother”s elderly cousin died in the city in the past 10 days after a delay in the arrival of an ambulance.

A 73-year-old man with a lung problem, he died on the way to the hospital, Zhong said.

“It”s hard to know for sure: could he have been saved?” said Zhong, who works at the Woodrow Wilson Center. “But my family will always wonder.” AP

Disclaimer :- This story has not been edited by Outlook staff and is auto-generated from news agency feeds. Source: PTI

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