The first two cases asymptomatic did not raise much alarm when they were detected on September 24 in the port of Qingdao in eastern China A shipment of frozen foods had presented remains of coronavirus on its surface at customs service controls Two longshoremen who touched it tested positive.
They were transferred to the municipal Pulmonary Hospital without great fuss Officially they did not break the chain that China accumulated of more than 40 days without confirmed infections without symptoms are counted separately in government records.
Until last weekend Suddenly 12 people related to that pulmonary hospital health workers patients and contacts from both groups tested positive for covid It was the first community outbreak in two months in China Now all the alarms went off Considerable official machinery was put in place to tackle the root outbreak in this city of 10 million people famous in China for its brewing tradition.
On Monday the same day the contagions were announced Liu Qing a 33yearold architect living in Qingdao received the same warning several times Through social networks through messaging applications out loud all city residents had to undergo a PCR test for coronavirus within three days It was communicated by his neighborhood committee the body responsible for ensuring that public regulations are followed in each neighborhood Your company City Hall Your groups of friends.
“They set up sample collection points everywhere you can go to the one that suits you best They are usually in squares or open spaces in the open air In a radius of five kilometers around my house there are several I went to one that is 510 minutes away on foot,” Liu says through an instant messaging application “The first day there were tremendous queues there were people who waited hours I went the second day in the late afternoon everything was much calmer I left my personal information and they did the test in total it took about 15 minutes ”.
As in other outbreaks, the tests were collective the same reagent for every 10 people in case of positive individual tests would be done The authorities had the results within 24 hours. Massive tests are one of the ingredients of the cocktail of strict measures with which China the country where the first cases of covid19 were detected last December in its city of Wuhan has managed to stop each outbreak Officially since the crisis began only about 91000 people have been infected in the most populous country in the world and 4379 have died.
Its success is due in part to the seriousness with which a population still traumatized by the memory of the SARS epidemic in 2002 takes preventive measures “It has not crossed my head to refuse It is something that is done for the good of the community I have to cooperate ” explains Liu about the call to the test But the cocktail also requires a centralized response system to outbreaks a huge apparatus of social control for its implementation and limits on individual freedoms a priori difficult to accept for democratic societies.
Prevention and control measures which even today keep Chinas external borders partially closed include downloading to mobile phones voluntary in theory essential in practice for public activities when outbreak alerts are triggered of a tracking application that guarantees the good health of its wearer Also the temperature measurements every time you enter a closed place where of course it is required to wear a mask Often in addition personal data must also be left name telephone number ID.
The declaration of medium or high risk in a locality entails the obligation of the mask on the street It is strictly adhered to not wearing it supposes at the very least the warning of a security guard or volunteer of the neighborhood committees In the worst case the arrival of the police.
Where a case is detected harsh house confinements are imposed be it of specific residential complexes in the mildest outbreaks or in the most complicated foci of entire cities as in the case of Wuhan In these cases it is even forbidden to leave the house at all times not even to go to buy food it is ordered online and the neighborhood committees take it to the home.
Mass tests of entire neighborhoods or cities are also mandatory In the hypothetical situation that someone did not show up the first line of pressure would come through increasingly insistent phone calls from the neighborhood committee the workplace or the study center on whom the responsibility falls to ensure that their resident’s workers or pupils take the tests.
Wang Lisheng a 34yearold executive at a state-owned company in Qingdao admits that for a moment he considered not attending the call this week the idea of a test made him a little nervous “But my neighborhood committee demanded it of me My company also forced me to go ” If that pressure was not enough and in the vast majority of cases like Wangs it is the police would end up knocking on the door of the house.
So far the formula has worked as have other Asian countries to a greater or lesser degree with generally less drastic strategies Nowadays China is showing off the control it has achieved over the coronavirus in Chengdu the cradle of hip-hop raves are back The images of the massive parties of Wuhan this summer went around the world A reminder to countries fighting the virus that strict prevention measures have their payoff boasted the Global Times newspaper
In Qingdao, the small outbreak has been brought under control in less than a week The 10 million tests found only one more positive An investigation identified an X-ray machine that was not properly disinfected at the hospital as the vector of contagion Its director and the head of the municipal health commission have been fired.