China built 5,000-room quarantine center for overseas arrivals

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As countries around the world reopen borders and ease restrictions on coronaviruses, Beijing is doubling down on its zero Covid strategy. The latest example: a $ 260 million quarantine facility and 5,000 rooms for inbound travelers is expected to open in southern metropolitan Guangzhou in the coming days.

It will replace designated hotels located across Guangzhou to quarantine Chinese and international travelers from overseas – a move to reduce residents’ exposure to imported cases.

“It’s arguably the most technologically advanced quarantine center in the world, if you will – very high-tech, very sophisticated,” said Yanzhong Huang, senior researcher in global health at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The Guangzhou International Health Station, as it is officially named, is the first of its kind in China. But experts say it could be the first in a long series as the Chinese government steps up its no-compromise, zero-tolerance strategy towards the coronavirus.

Already, the Dongguan Manufacturing Center, about an hour’s drive from Guangzhou, is building its own “international health station” with 2,000 rooms. Further south, the Shenzhen technology hub is also considering such an installation.

“This is not just an interim measure. (Chinese leaders) believe that this pandemic will take some time to end, and China will continue to strictly control its borders,” Huang said. “Facilities like this serve as a means of institutionalizing the zero tolerance strategy.”

For more than 18 months, China has closed its borders to most foreigners. The few people allowed in, as well as returning Chinese citizens, must undergo at least two weeks of mandatory hotel quarantine, followed by at least another week of centralized quarantine or home isolation – including those who are fully vaccinated.

But the virus has repeatedly violated China’s defenses. In May, the highly infectious delta variant caused an epidemic in southern Guangdong province, including Guangzhou and Shenzhen. At that time, Guangdong received 90% of all overseas travelers entering China, with around 30,000 people quarantined daily at its 300 centralized facilities, according to a provincial health official.
By the end of June, Guangdong had contained the epidemic, but authorities decided that existing measures were not sufficient to eradicate the virus. Zhong Nanshan, one of the government’s top public health advisers, told state media that Guangzhou will build a centralized quarantine facility for all overseas arrivals to enforce stricter rules.

The project got off to a quick start, with more than 4,000 workers assigned to the site. The installation was completed earlier this month and an initial group of 184 medical staff moved in last week to prepare for its official launch.

They face a tough job ahead. The complex is designed as a bubble to be isolated from the rest of the city, which means that not only travelers, but also workers will be placed under effective lockdown. Medical staff will work for 28 days at the facility, spend a week in quarantine themselves and an additional two weeks in home quarantine before being allowed out, an official told the Guangzhou Daily newspaper.
China’s decision to tighten quarantine measures for overseas arrivals comes as a growing list of countries opens. Last week, the United States announced it would ease travel restrictions on all fully vaccinated foreign visitors starting in November.

But on Chinese social networks, calls are increasing for the authorities to extend the quarantine for arrivals abroad. Many have criticized Chinese travelers returning from overseas for bringing the virus to China, especially following the latest outbreak in southern Fujian province.

Initially, experts advising the government identified a man who returned from Singapore more than a month ago as the likely source of the outbreak, although he completed 21 days of quarantine upon arrival, during which time he was tested negative for the virus a total of nine times. . The average incubation period for the Delta variant is approximately four days.

Health experts later reconsidered this theory, saying the man likely caught the virus during centralized quarantine instead. But the clarification has done little to calm calls online for stricter quarantine requirements.

China’s move towards a stricter quarantine comes despite the country making huge strides in its vaccination campaign. Earlier this month, officials announced that one billion people had been fully vaccinated with domestically made vaccines, representing 71% of China’s 1.4 billion people – a rate higher than that of many countries that have opened their borders.

The new Guangzhou quarantine facility will open just in time for the China Import and Export Fair, which begins on October 15. The biannual event, also known as the Canton Fair, is China’s largest trade exhibition, typically attracting tens of thousands of companies from around the world. .

Having been held online so far during the pandemic, next month marks a real-world return for the show – but participation will be limited to exporters and buyers already based in China.

Nonetheless, authorities in Guangzhou have tightened quarantine requirements for all overseas arrivals, increasing their mandatory quarantine from 14 days to 21 days.

Huang, the Council on Foreign Relations expert, said that despite its enormous size, the facility is unlikely to be large enough to accommodate all foreign arrivals. “Think about it. An international flight usually carries 300 people. They all need to be quarantined and stay at least 21 days. It will fill up quickly,” he said.

The disappearance of the Covid cats

When Liu, 28, in the Chinese city of Harbin, tested positive for Covid-19 last week, she left enough food and water at home for her three cats before going into quarantine at the hospital, she told the official Beijing News. She was hoping that community workers would come to her apartment to take care of her pets while she was away.

Instead, when the cats also tested positive for the virus, the workers euthanized all three without his consent, according to Beijing News, which identified Liu only by his last name.

Liu learned on Monday that his cats’ samples had tested positive for the virus and that slaughtering them was the only option because there is no treatment available for the animal infection. Liu rejected and refused to sign a consent form for the euthanasia, according to Beijing News. The next day, the three cats were still shot.

Without treatment, cats would continue to carry the virus and the household would remain an infected space even after Liu returned from quarantine – risking another outbreak, an anonymous community worker told Beijing News.

CNN contacted officials in the Nangang District, where Liu lives, who said they were not aware of the case.

Animals from different countries have contracted Covid-19, including domestic animals, zoo animals and farmed species, with humans being the main source of these infections.
But although scientists say Covid-19 likely originated from animals before it became widespread in humans, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus to humans, according to the Centers for United States Disease Control and Prevention.

Liu’s story went viral on the strictly censored Chinese social media platform Weibo, with a related hashtag gaining more than 14 million views. Users were divided, with pet owners and supporters outraged, while others viewed euthanasia as a wise choice during the pandemic.

“The pandemic situation is so dire overseas, but have you ever heard of a report that even a pet has been euthanized?” commented a Weibo user. “For families with pets, pets are part of the family. Why [are we doing this]? “

“I don’t understand why people criticize the country [authorities]Another user wrote. In fact, the treatment of Covid-19 patients has been provided by the state with a lot of money and effort, and medical staff are also at risk of infection … I don’t not understand why everyone is asking the country to spend so much manpower, material and financial resources on the treatment of pets. “


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