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Editorial: Learn both positive and negative lessons from Wuhan’s lockdown

  • April 10, 2020
  • , The Japan News , 2:00 p.m.
  • English Press
  • ,

In the Chinese city of Wuhan, Hubei Province, the place where the new coronavirus first began to spread, a lockdown was lifted after two and a half months. Lessons should be learned from the world’s first urban lockdown imposed against the virus.


The way to impose an urban lockdown differs among countries. In European countries and the United States, it can mean that going out is banned and the operation of public transportation stopped. There may even be fines imposed on people who fail to comply the rules in some countries. It is believed that 3.9 billion people, about half of the world population, have been placed under restrictions on going out to some extent.


The measures taken in China, however, were exceptionally strict in terms of their scale and enforcement.


Hours after the lockdown decision was made, total shutdowns were imposed on flights, high-speed trains and expressways, disconnecting Wuhan’s 11 million people from the outside world. The lockdown was expanded elsewhere in Hubei Province, and the authorities put residents under thorough surveillance. People in Wuhan were not even allowed to go out to buy food.


While more than 80,000 people have been infected with the new coronavirus in mainland China, the number of new infections has rapidly decreased over the last few weeks. The head of a team of experts from the Chinese health authority said that the number of people infected with the virus would have tripled if the lockdown had been imposed five days later. It is fair to say that the lockdown of Wuhan achieved certain results.


Although the measures contained the further spread of infections to other areas, there were also detrimental consequences. For a while, the situation in Hubei Province was drastically deteriorated. Medical services collapsed due to lack of medical care workers and medical supplies. Patients died at home one after another without being able to receive medical treatment.


The death toll in Wuhan alone has amounted to about 2,500, accounting for 80% of total deaths in mainland China.


It is said that many citizens complained of mental distress after being deprived of their right to move freely and and being faced with the infections and even deaths of people close to them. Concern has been raised over the situation of people from Wuhan being discriminated against in other areas. Dissatisfaction with and distrust of the government among such people as Wuhan’s citizens will not be dispelled easily.


While Japan is not considering compulsory measures such as imposing an urban lockdown or banning going out, the practices carried out in Wuhan are informative. Even while heeding the point that restraining movements between urban areas contributes to prevention of the spread of infections, disruptions caused by introducing excessive regulations should be avoided.


Upon the lockdown being lifted, many people in Wuhan have begun moving to other big cities, including Shanghai. With the resumption of travel and economic activity, concerns linger over the potential for a new rise in infections.


In China, asymptomatic people who tested positive are not included in the total counts of infected patients. According to U.S. media, the U.S intelligence community has concluded in its analysis that China has underreported both the number of people infected and the death toll.


China should actively disclose scientific data on the effectiveness of the lockdown as well as information including the impact on the public, not merely broadcasting self-praise for accomplishing the containment of the infections.

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