The encouraging signs were put in doubt after 600,000 people were placed under a strict lockdown on Tuesday when new coronavirus infections were reported.

By Ian Horswill


Posted on April 3, 2020

There was evidence that life in China is just beginning to return to a kind of normal after months of strict lockdown over the coronavirus which originated in Wuhan in late January.

The encouraging signs were put in doubt after 600,000 people were placed under a strict lockdown on Tuesday when new coronavirus infections were reported in Henan province in central China. Curfews were imposed in Jia county, near the city of Pingdingshan, according to a notice on the country’s official microblog account, South China Morning Post reported.

Special approval is required for all movement outside the home as authorities fear a second wave of infections. Only people with special permits are being allowed to go to work, and these people must have their temperatures taken before they leave the house and wear face masks once outside.

China, train
Trains have resumed services but passengers wear masks to protect themselves and have their temperatures tested before getting ionto the station. Photo: Twitter

The streets of major cities have not returned to the crowds and congestion of before, but people are coming out into the streets again and offices and factories have started up again. Even Wuhan, where the virus originated, has started back up again.

During his recent inspection trip to Zhejiang province, China’s President Xi Jinping emphasised that China must take careful steps to get life back to normal and warned officials to ensure “no loopholes” to prevent a return of the coronavirus epidemic that, according to Chinese authorities, infected more than 82,000 people and killed more than 3,300 people in mainland China alone.

China, Wuhan
Masked workers open a luxurious shop in Wuhan, Hubei province, China. Photo: Twitter

Don’t confuse this with actual normality. Everybody has to wear a mask if they leave their home and the masks remain on at work, be it an office or a factory. Masks have been part of China’s society for some time but not a blanket wearing of them like there is now. Movement within the country is still restricted.

Workers and shoppers have their temperature tested before entering a factory or shop or cafe or restaurant. Citizens have to download an app on their smartphones that dictates whether they should be quarantined or allowed into subways, malls and other public spaces. The app is checked before entry is allowed into shops and factories. In some cities, residents now have to use the app to take public transportation. Everybody has to wear a mask if they leave their home and the masks remain on at work, be it an office or a factory.

The Alipay Health Code, as China’s official news media has called the system, was first introduced in the eastern city of Hangzhou, and a project by the local government with the help of Ant Financial, a sister company of the e-commerce giant Alibaba.

People in China sign up through Ant Financial’s popular wallet app, Alipay, and are assigned a colour code — green, yellow or red — that indicates their health status. The system is already in use in 200 cities and is being rolled out nationwide, Ant Financial stated.

Across the country, workers in train stations and outside residential buildings record people’s names, national ID numbers, contact information and details about recent travel. In some cities, residents now have to register their phone numbers with the app to take public transportation.