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World

Ominous Reports Indicate China Hasn’t Contained the Coronavirus Yet

A pedestrian wearing a face mask walks near an overpass following an outbreak of the coronavirus, Shanghai, China March 17, 2020. (Aly Song/Reuters)

The Chinese government is adjusting how it reports the country’s coronavirus cases: “China’s National Health Commission said on Tuesday that 1,541 asymptomatic coronavirus patients were under observation as of the end of Monday, with 205 of those cases having come from overseas. A Chinese health official said separately on Tuesday the commission would start reporting on asymptomatic cases from Wednesday as fears grow that coronavirus carriers displaying no symptoms could be spreading the virus without knowing they are sick.”

You probably heard about China’s closing the country’s movie theaters shortly after reopening them. You probably have not heard that similar re-closings are occurring at public buildings in Shanghai.

Shanghai’s skyscrapers – Shanghai Tower, Shanghai Oriental Pearl Tower, and Jinmao Tower – will temporarily close again starting Monday after reopening for 19 days.

Earlier, the Shanghai Oriental Pearl Tower, Shanghai History Museum were reopened on March 12.

In addition, Shanghai Haichang Ocean Park, Madame Tussauds Shanghai, and other indoor sightseeing and entertainment attractions have also been suspended. . . .

Entertainment venues such as KTV and internet cafes have also been suspended in many places of China outside Shanghai, Chinanews reported.

China has closed its borders to all foreign nationals, the soccer leagues don’t know when the season will restart, the national university entrance exam is pushed back to July and Beijing is barring residents of Hubei province who don’t have a job or a residence registry in the capital.

And then there’s this not-yet-fully-explained phenomenon:

From March 18-22, the Chinese city of Wuhan reported no new cases of the virus through domestic transmission — that is, infection passed on from one person to another. The achievement was seen as a turning point in efforts to contain the virus, which has infected more than 80,000 people in China. Wuhan was particularly hard-hit, with more than half of all confirmed cases in the country.

But some Wuhan residents who had tested positive earlier and then recovered from the disease are testing positive for the virus a second time. Based on data from several quarantine facilities in the city, which house patients for further observation after their discharge from hospitals, about 5%-10% of patients pronounced “recovered” have tested positive again.

Some of those who retested positive appear to be asymptomatic carriers — those who carry the virus and are possibly infectious but do not exhibit any of the illness’s associated symptoms — suggesting that the outbreak in Wuhan is not close to being over.

NPR has spoken by phone or exchanged text messages with four individuals in Wuhan who are part of this group of individuals testing positive a second time in March.

Does this sound like a country of a billion people that has only a couple dozen new cases per day, as the official numbers state?

When you see headlines along the lines of, “The United States isn’t handling the coronavirus any better than China,” keep in mind that the Chinese government embraced brutal totalitarian measures that the American people would never accept. Chinese authorities welded doors shut to keep the infected from leaving their homes. (Video here.)

What if the only effective way to slow the spread of the virus is to take measures that are absolutely catastrophic for a country’s economy? And what if China endured the lockdown conditions for as long as the country’s economy could bear — just short of the extreme conditions that could prompt a revolt against the current regime — and then reopened the factories, hoping that a second wave of the coronavirus wouldn’t be too harmful?

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