China announces flu lockdown plans: Officials spark anger by warning areas may be closed to quell outbreaks of common virus
- The response plan is intended to counteract the rising number of flu cases
- The central China city of Xi’an said it could enforce lockdowns “if necessary”.
Chinese officials want to introduce lockdowns to fight the flu, leaving many furious at the prospect of a return to the strict restrictions seen during the Covid-19 outbreak.
The city of Xi’an, in central China’s Shaanxi province, said it could enforce lockdowns “if necessary” if an outbreak of the common flu virus poses a “serious threat”.
The city’s contingency plan published on Wednesday aims to combat the rising number of flu cases in the country as Covid-19 cases continue to fall.
Authorities in the Chinese city have not suggested a new round of lockdowns is imminent, but locals in the area still called the plans exaggerated.
China’s zero-Covid lockdown plans were implemented across the country during the pandemic and were seen by many as extreme.
An old man who went out and violated China’s Covid restrictions was pinned to the ground by Covid police and unable to move, Haining, Shanghai
Residents undergo a swab test in a residential area closed off due to Covid-19 coronavirus restrictions in Beijing on November 29, 2022
Xi’an local government’s plan accounts for four levels of flu outbreak. If the general virus reached a critically high level, new lockdowns would likely be introduced.
During the pandemic, Chinese residents were not allowed to leave their homes. Some were not even allowed to shop for food or crucial supplies.
The city of Xi’an was placed under one of the strictest lockdown measures by authorities until restrictions were quickly eased across the country in December last year following massive upheaval.
Reacting to the prospect of a return to enforced lockdowns, social media users in China using Weibo said the common flu was a normal virus and no lockdown measures were needed before Covid.
The BBC reported that a user said ‘life went on as usual’ when the flu broke out.
Another said local governments in China had become “addicted to sealing and control.”
Speaking to the BBC, Huang Yanzhong, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, said: “To local residents who were traumatized by the lockdown measures not long ago, the return to the same draconian method of dealing with flu outbreaks is by no means justified.’
Others urged caution, believing a return to the strict lockdown was unlikely.
Medical staff in white hazmat suit walking on the street in Shanghai, China, January 2021
Professor Tang Renwu of the School of Government at Beijing Normal University told Singapore newspaper Lianhe Zaobao that he expected more local governments to reveal plans for possible flu outbreaks in the coming days.
Prof Tang said, “Local governments should pay attention to their wording when issuing similar documents so as not to cause social panic.
Despite the strict lockdowns put in place across China during the Covid-19 pandemic, this was not the first time such restrictions have been planned.
In 2015, the Shanghai government said it would limit gatherings and recall students from school and people from work if the common flu became a serious threat.