In a chat with Internet users of World, our correspondent in Beijing, Frédéric Lemaître, returned to the Covid-19 epidemic in China.
Zab: Do we know the real number of deaths from Covid-19 in China?
Frédéric Lemaître: Officially, there are 4,634 deaths from Covid-19 in mainland China. Almost all of the victims died in Hubei province, and in particular in Wuhan, in February and March. This assessment is undoubtedly partly underestimated, because the authorities have not attributed to Covid-19 the death of people affected by another disease. But today there is nothing to confirm that this underestimation was massive, neither in Wuhan nor in the rest of the country. I don’t see how the authorities could have hidden many deaths in hospitals in Shanghai or Beijing, for example.
Albert: What are the rules applied in China? Barrier gestures, teleworking, more or less strict than with us?
First, we cannot say that there is no declared case. As recently as today, the city of Tianjin (15 million inhabitants), 130 kilometers from Beijing, revealed the existence of four new cases. But you are right, compared to the population of the country, the number of new cases has for several months remained marginal.
With hindsight, we realize that at the beginning of the year the epidemic remained a phenomenon of regional scope. It affected Hubei province, but, due to containment, not really the rest of the country. China was then able to deploy considerable resources, sending more than 40,000 people to Wuhan to help local medical teams.
Since then, China has been a country almost closed to the rest of the world. The number of international flights planned between October 2020 and March 2021 is 96% lower than in the same period a year earlier. And anyone entering China is tested and quarantined in a hotel. Above all, as soon as a case appears, the country carries out massive tests (11 million in Beijing in June, or about half of the population), isolates the sick and tracks all contact cases, identified mainly through telephones. portable.
Mireille: Social places such as bars, restaurants, nightclubs, etc. are they open? If so, are people masked?
Yes, all shops, including restaurants and nightclubs are open again. Employees are masked, but customers are not. Theaters and cinemas are only operating at 75% of their capacity. I don’t think teleworking is still very applied. The temperature is still controlled at the entrance to many buildings.
However, these generalities should be taken with caution, as the situation changes rapidly and depends on local circumstances. For example, in such and such a city, such hotelier will refuse you if you have spent the last two weeks in a district of Shanghai where a case has been recently reported. One of his colleagues will ask you for a test. A month ago, a city in Hunan that I passed by refused to allow foreigners who were in transit between two trains to leave the station.
As for barrier gestures, it seems to me that they are less and less respected. Public transport is again heavily used. You can circulate normally in China again, but, nevertheless, if you move from one province to another, it is always better to inquire, because the restrictions are numerous and unpredictable. After four cases were announced in Tianjin today, residents of this city, or those who have been there in the past two weeks, will find it difficult to move around the rest of the country during the days to come.
Dubitative: What has been China’s exact strategy to “stop the epidemic”?
Until the beginning of June, the country remained almost confined even though cases of Covid-19 were relatively rare and almost limited to Hubei. There have been a few instances around a Beijing market in mid-June, and half the city has been tested!
For a whole semester, the Chinese were afraid, they avoided going out and assembling, even when it was allowed. This obviously slowed down the spread of the virus. It’s a bit as if all of Europe was confined when only one French region had been affected.
Biscotte: Are the borders still closed?
China has stopped granting visas since the beginning of November to people residing in the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, India and the Philippines. For most other countries, it takes two tests in the forty-eight hours before departure, which in many cases is an organizational feat.
In addition, there are hardly any international flights. Finally, on arrival, you are, of course, still tested and placed in a fortnight in a hotel, which is imposed on you… and invoiced. In short, Beijing is doing everything to dissuade entering China at this time, even if you are Chinese.
Mike: We have very little economic data on China today: resumption of industrial production, evolution of GDP… Can you give us a quick update?
The world regularly publishes updates on the Chinese economy. Economic activity has gradually resumed since June. Industrial production and exports in the third quarter are up sharply.
Having made several trips to the country in recent weeks, both in the center, the south and the north-west, I must tell you that I am amazed by the number of projects underway. I have never seen so many cranes and concrete mixers in my life.
However, consumption is still low, because many modest Chinese saw their purchasing power cut by the Covid-19 at the start of the year. Nevertheless, China is expected to be the only G20 country to show positive growth this year.
Gabriel: Where are we with the investigation into the origin of the virus?
Many Chinese are convinced that the virus was imported by Westerners. Likewise, China, unlike the WHO, insists on contamination through different packaging of imported frozen food. But Beijing is opposed, in fact, to any in-depth investigation, carried out by international researchers, on its territory.