Message in new Beijing outbreak
Resurgence shows second wave stays near
In much of Beijing, life had returned to something like normal weeks ago. Restaurants welcomed diners, people went back to work, schools reopened. The pandemic seemed like something that was happening to the rest of the world.
Then Beijing announced Thursday its first domestically transmitted coronavirus case in 55 days.
Authorities soon discovered dozens more cases, mostly linked to a sprawling market in Beijing’s southeast. On Saturday, it reimposed strict “wartime” measures to prevent a second wave of infections. Residents described something akin to déjà vu.
“Two months of things loosening up, and life feeling like it’s going to be normal, and all of a sudden we’re back to where we were in February,” Nelson Quan, restricted to a compound in Yuquan district, told Al Jazeera.
The number of cases remains small for a city of 22 million. But authorities are taking few chances: 1,200 flights in and out of Beijing’s two airports were cancelled Wednesday. Schools closed just a month after reopening.
In the weeks before this outbreak, Chinese officials had spoken proudly of their success in containing the coronavirus, suggesting China could be a model for others to follow. But the new cases show that model may be much more fragile than it first appeared.
The new cases in Beijing raise worrying questions — not only about how the virus could have gotten to Xinfadi market, which is the obvious concern, but also about whether livestock or even fish carry the virus. Chinese officials said the virus could have been circulating near the market since April.
One thing is painfully clear: This pandemic is far from over.
Beijing is battling a second wave, but other nations are not yet over their first. And as China takes its wartime approach to fighting the coronavirus, some nations are retreating. Amid fatigue, uncertainty and economic pain, they have fallen back, choosing to surrender rather than sacrifice.
In the United States, Vice President Mike Pence wrote in the Wall Street Journal’s opinion section this week that the media got it wrong: The U.S. was not facing a second wave of infections, it was “winning the fight against the invisible enemy.”
Numerous experts, including Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious-disease official, contradict that assessment. “I don’t like to talk about a second wave right now, because we haven’t gotten out of our first wave,” Fauci told the Daily Beast.