Shijiazhuang steps up anti-COVID measures
A large-scale transfer of thousands of people to centralized quarantine facilities is taking place in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, as the local government ramps up efforts to further strengthen its measures against the outbreak.
On Wednesday afternoon, a woman in her 50s strolled in a yard at a vocational school in Shijiazhuang holding a baby covered by a pink blanket, waiting to move into their quarantine facility.
The woman, from Gaocheng district of Shijiazhuang, the worst-hit region in the current COVID-19 outbreak in Hebei, had just been transferred to the facility.
Like her, the residents of 15 villages in the district will be transferred to quarantine centers to curb potential cross-infection, according to Xu Jianpei, vice-governor of Hebei. The district has reported the most cases in the outbreak.
Earlier reports said more than 20,000 live in the 15 villages.
To facilitate the centralized quarantine effort, the province pledged to prepare more facilities, including by building new sites and renovating existing buildings.
Centralized quarantine for those at greater risk must be implemented to prevent the further spread of the virus, the province's top officials said at a meeting on COVID-19 prevention and control on Tuesday.
Previously, many residents were under home quarantine, which led to concerns over secondary infections in their villages.
Five neighboring villages have been closed off, with all of their residents in home quarantine. No confirmed cases have been reported there so far.
By Wednesday, all of the more than 5,400 residents of the three worst-hit villages in Gaocheng district－Xiaoguozhuang, Liujiazuo and Nanqiaozhai－had been transferred to centralized quarantine facilities, Meng Xianghong, vice-mayor of Shijiazhuang, said at a news conference on Wednesday.
Sun Huihui, a 37-year-old resident of Xiyao village, has been in quarantine at a hotel since Jan 4 after she was identified as a close contact of confirmed COVID-19 patients.
"It's our duty to do what is necessary to protect others," Sun said, adding that the hotel she lives in is comfortable. Her only concern was temporary separation from her family.
Her family members, including grandparents and children, were transferred to centralized quarantine at a school dormitory in Shijiazhuang's Luquan district on Tuesday.
The provincial authorities called on Tuesday for strengthened management and medical observation at the quarantine facilities in order to prevent cross-infection at the venues.
The province also set up a 24-hour hotline to provide psychological assistance, said Li Qi, head of Hebei Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Gaocheng district, neighboring the province's only international airport, has 226 villages, with 800,000 permanent residents, according to its government.
After the residents are moved to the quarantine sites, the villages will be thoroughly disinfected every day, China Central Television reported.
Some villagers, such as Fang Lingwei, have chosen to stay and serve as epidemic-control volunteers. He is a resident of Xiaoguozhuang, where over 100 confirmed cases have been reported since Jan 2, when the cluster infection emerged.
His family was transferred to a hotel in the city's Pingshan county for quarantine.
As of Tuesday night, Hebei had reported a total of 395 confirmed patients and 215 asymptomatic carriers, the provincial health commission said.
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