ⓘ 2020 Hubei lockdowns. On 23 January 2020, the central government of China imposed a lockdown in Wuhan and other cities in Hubei in an effort to quarantine the c ..

2020 Hubei lockdowns

ⓘ 2020 Hubei lockdowns

On 23 January 2020, the central government of China imposed a lockdown in Wuhan and other cities in Hubei in an effort to quarantine the center of an outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 ; this action is commonly referred to as the Wuhan lockdown ". The World Health Organization, although stating that it was beyond its own guidelines, commended the move, calling it "unprecedented in public health history".

The lockdown in Wuhan set the precedent for similar measures in other Chinese cities. Within hours of the Wuhan lockdown, travel restrictions were also imposed on the nearby cities of Huanggang and Ezhou, and were eventually imposed on all 15 other cities in Hubei, affecting a total of about 57 million people. On 2 February 2020, Wenzhou, Zhejiang, implemented a seven-day lockdown in which only one person per household was allowed to exit once each two days, and most of the highway exits were closed. On 13 March 2020, Huangshi and Qianjiang became the first Hubei cities to remove strict travel restrictions within part or all of their administrative confines. On April 8, 2020, the Wuhan lockdown officially ended.

Some Western observers, such as Amnesty International, were initially skeptical of the lockdown; however, as the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic worsened, similar measures were enacted around the globe.


1. Background

Wuhan is the capital of Hubei province in China. With a population of over 11 million, it is the largest city in Hubei, the most populous city in Central China, the seventh-most populous Chinese city, and one of the nine National Central Cities of China. Wuhan lies in the eastern Jianghan Plain, on the confluence of the Yangtze River and its largest tributary, the Han River. It is a major transportation hub, with dozens of railways, roads and expressways passing through the city and connecting to other major cities. Because of its key role in domestic transport, Wuhan is known as the "Nine Provinces Thoroughfare" 九省通衢 and sometimes referred to as "the Chicago of China".


2.1. Lockdowns Hubei

In mid-December 2019, an emerging cluster of people, many linked to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, were infected with pneumonia with no clear causes. Chinese scientists subsequently linked the pneumonia to a new strain of coronavirus that was given the initial designation SARS-CoV-2. Some of the first symptoms appeared on December 10, and 24 cases were later discovered to have connection to the seafood market.

On 10 January 2020, the first death and 41 clinically confirmed infections caused by the coronavirus were reported.

By 22 January 2020, the novel coronavirus had spread to major cities and provinces in China, with 571 confirmed cases and 17 deaths reported. Confirmed cases were also reported in other regions and countries, including Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, and the United States.

According to Li Lanjuan, a professor at Zhejiang University’s school of medicine and member of the high-level expert team convened by the National Health Commission, she had urged a lockdown on Wuhan on several occasions between 19 January and 22 January 2020 as a last resort to contain the epidemic.

At 2 am on 23 January 2020, authorities issued a notice informing residents of Wuhan that from 10 am, all public transport, including buses, railways, flights, and ferry services would be suspended. The Wuhan Airport, the Wuhan railway station, and the Wuhan Metro were all closed. The residents of Wuhan were also not allowed to leave the city without permission from the authorities. The notice caused an exodus from Wuhan. An estimated 300.000 people were reported to have left Wuhan by train alone before the 10 am lockdown. By the afternoon of 23 January, the authorities began shutting down some of the major highways leaving Wuhan. The lockdown came two days before the Chinese New Year, the most important festival in the country, and traditionally the peak traveling season, when millions of Chinese travel across the country.

Following the lockdown of Wuhan, public transportation systems in two of Wuhans neighboring prefecture-level cities, Huanggang and Ezhou, were also placed on lockdown. A total of 12 other county to prefecture-level cities in Hubei, including Huangshi, Jingzhou, Yichang, Xiaogan, Jingmen, Suizhou, Xianning, Qianjiang, Xiantao, Shiyan, Tianmen and Enshi, were placed on traveling restrictions by the end of 24 January, bringing the number of people affected by the restriction to more than 50 million.


2.2. Lockdowns Lockdown timeline

  • 20 February, the Chinese government has issued extension of order to shut down all non-essential companies, including manufacturing plants, and all schools in Hubei Province until at least 24:00 10 March.
  • 14 March: Hubei Sanitation and Health Committee 卫生健康委员会 Vice-Chairperson Liu Dongru 柳东如 announces that only Wuhan remains a "high-risk area", and that the entirety of the rest of the province is considered medium- or "low-risk areas". Any low-risk township-level divisions, in addition to those medium- and high-risk divisions with no confirmed active cases, could lift their blockades and other mobility controls. Per China News Service reporting, by 14 March, besides the aforementioned Huangshi and Qianjiang, Yichang, Huanggang, Suizhou, Xiantao, Jingzhou, Jingmen, Shiyan, Xiangyang, Tianmen and Shennongjia had announced "measures to lessen controls" and for industries to incrementally resume work and production.
  • 22 March: Wuhan loosens its two-month lockdown.
  • 18 March: The Hubei taskforce to control COVID-19 湖北省新冠肺炎疫情防控指挥部 announces that, with the exception of exit/entry into Wuhan and the province as a whole, all anti-COVID-19 traffic checkpoints within the province are to be removed.
  • 23 January, transport in Wuhan, Huanggang and Ezhou severely restricted, including closure of public transit, trains, airports, and major highways
  • 24 January, travel restrictions enacted in 12 additional prefecture-level cities in Hubei
  • 8 April: Wuhan lifts its lockdown, resumes all transportation, with residents intending to leave the city facing similar "Green Code" requirements as those in the rest of the province.
  • 25 March: Hubei lifts the lockdown outside of Wuhan, although people will still need to confirm their "Green Code" health classification, designated by Alipays monitoring system, to travel.
  • 13 February, the Chinese government has issued extension of order to shut down all non-essential companies, including manufacturing plants, in Hubei Province until at least 24:00 20 February.
  • 17 March: Jingzhou removes its permit requirements for transport, resuming normal transport operations, and also removes entry/exit controls on xiaoqu.
  • 13 March: Huangshi removes controls and permits on road traffic within its urban area; Qianjiang does the same for its entire administrative area.


2.3. Lockdowns Lockdowns by outdoor restrictions

On 1 February Huanggang, Hubei implemented a measure whereby only one person from each household is permitted to go outside for provisions once every two days, except for medical reasons or to work at shops or pharmacies. Many cities, districts, and counties across mainland China implemented similar measures in the days following, including Wenzhou, Hangzhou, Fuzhou, Harbin, and the whole of Jiangxi.


2.4. Lockdowns Closed management of communities

Many areas across China have implemented what is called "closed management" Chinese: 封闭式管理 ; pinyin: fēngbìshì guǎnlǐ on a community-basis. In most of the areas where this came into effect, villages, communities, and units in most areas would only keep one entrance and exit point open, and each household is allowed limited numbers of entrances and exits. In some places, night-time access is prohibited, effectively a curfew, and in extreme cases, access is prohibited throughout the day. People entering and leaving are required to wear masks and receive temperature tests. In some areas, vouchers are issued to the public, with vouchers and valid credentials. There are also areas where people are allowed to declare on WeChat mini-programs or public accounts and some apps at the same time. Courier and food delivery personnel are usually prohibited from entering. Control in communities with confirmed cases is more stringent.

List by the time of official announcement:

As of 12 February 2020, a total of 207 cities including 26 provincial capitals and sub-provincial cities have announced the implementation of closed management, including at least 9 first-level administrative regions and at least 51-second-level administrative regions in other provinces and cities; of which, 2 secondary administrative regions upgraded to fully closed wartime control.


3. Impacts and reactions

The exodus from Wuhan before the lockdown has resulted in angry responses on the Chinese microblogging website Sina Weibo from residents in other cities who are concerned that it could result in spreading of the novel coronavirus to their cities. Some in Wuhan are concerned with the availability of provisions and especially medical supplies during the lockdown.

The World Health Organization called the Wuhan lockdown "unprecedented" and said it showed "how committed the authorities are to contain a viral breakout". However, WHO clarified that the move is not a recommendation that WHO had made and authorities have to wait and see how effective it is. The WHO has separately stated that the possibility of locking down an entire city like this is "new to science".

The CSI 300 Index, an aggregate measure of the top 300 stocks in the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges, dropped almost 3% on 23 January 2020, the biggest single-day loss in almost 9 months, after the Wuhan lockdown was announced as investors spooked by the drastic measure sought safe haven for their investments.

The unprecedented scale of this lockdown generated controversy, and at least one expert criticized this measure as "risky business" that "could very easily backfire" by forcing otherwise healthy people in Wuhan to stay in close conditions with infected people. Drawing a cordon sanitaire around a city of 11 million people raises inevitable ethical concerns. It also drew comparisons to the lockdown of the poor West Point neighbourhood in Liberia during the 2014 ebola outbreak, which was lifted after ten days.

The lockdown has caused panic in the city of Wuhan, and many have expressed concern about the citys ability to cope with the outbreak. As of 25 January 2020, it remains unknown whether the large costs of this measure, both financially and in terms of personal liberty, will translate to effective infection control. Medical historian Howard Markel argued that the Chinese government "may now be overreacting, imposing an unjustifiable burden on the population," and claimed that "incremental restrictions, enforced steadily and transparently, tend to work far better than draconian measures." Others, such as Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have defended the intent behind the lockdowns, citing that the lockdowns have bought the world a "delay to essentially prepare better." Mathematical epidemiologist Gerardo Chowell of Georgia State University stated that based on mathematical modelling, "containment strategies implemented in China are successfully reducing transmission."

After northern Italy became a new hotspot of the outbreak in late February, the Italian government has enacted what has been called a "Wuhan-style lockdown," by quarantining nearly a dozen towns of 50.000 people in the provinces of Lombardy and Veneto. Iran, another developing hotspot for the coronavirus as of 25 February, has come under calls to assume similar lockdown procedures as China and Italy. Security experts such as Gal Luft of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security in Washington, have said that "The best way for Iran to deal with the disease is to do precisely what China has done – quarantine." and that "If Wuhan with its 11 million population can be under quarantine, so can Tehran with its 8 million"


3.1. Impacts and reactions Reactions and measures outside Mainland China

Strict surveillance measures are being enforced at airports, seaports, and border crossings to prevent the disease spreading to countries or territories in the region. Accordingly, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and some ASEAN countries are thermally monitoring passengers arriving at their major international airports, while flights from and/or to Wuhan ceased operating. Activity through gateways in Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam are put under extra supervision from the Government and medical staffs. North Korea banned international flights and foreign visitors, and Papua New Guinea banned travelers from all Asian countries.

An analysis of air travel patterns was used to map and predict patterns of spread and was published in the Journal of Travel Medicine in mid-January 2020. Based on information from the International Air Transport Association 2018, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Taipei had the largest volume of travelers from Wuhan. Dubai, Sydney, and Melbourne were also reported as popular destinations for people travelling from Wuhan. Using the validated tool, the Infectious Disease Vulnerability Index IDVI, to assess the ability to manage a disease threat, Bali was reported as least able in preparedness, while cities in Australia were considered most able.

As a result of the outbreak, many countries including most of the Schengen Area, Armenia, Australia, Iraq, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Maldives, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and the United States have imposed temporary entry bans on Chinese citizens or recent visitors to China, or have ceased issuing visas and reimposed visa requirements on Chinese citizens.

Countries and territories in the region, including Hong Kong, Mongolia, Nepal, North Korea, Russia, and Vietnam have also responded with border tightening/closures with the mainland China. On 22 January North Korea closed its borders to international tourists to prevent the spread of the virus into the country. Chinese visitors make up the bulk of foreign tourists to North Korea.

Also on 22 January, the Asian Football Confederation AFC announced that it would be moving the matches in the third round of the 2020 AFC Womens Olympic Qualifying Tournament from Wuhan to Nanjing, affecting the womens national team squads from Australia, China PR, Chinese Taipei, and Thailand. A few days later, the AFC announced that together with Football Federation Australia they would be moving the matches to Sydney. The Asia-Pacific Olympic boxing qualifiers, which were originally set to be held in Wuhan from 3–14 February, were also cancelled and moved to Amman, Jordan, to be held between 3–11 March.

On 27 January the United States CDC issued updated travel guidance for China, recommending that travellers avoid all nonessential travel to all of the country. The CDC has directed U.S. Customs and Border Protection to check individuals for symptoms of the coronavirus.

On 29 January British Airways cancelled all their flights to mainland China as a reaction to the spread of the virus. Lufthansa followed hours later by also suspending all their flights. Lion Air and Air Seoul also suspended all their flights. The same day, Czechia stopped issuing Schengen Visas to Chinese citizens.

On 30 January Belgium, Greece, and Italy closed all Schengen Visa application centers in China. The same day, Egyptair announced suspension of flights between Egypt and Hangzhou starting 1 February 2020 while those to Beijing and Guangzhou will be suspended starting 4 February 2020 until further notice.

On 31 January Italy closed all passenger air traffic between Italy and China and Taiwan. The Italian Civil Aviation Authority NOTAM says that effective 31 January, all passenger flights from China, including the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau, and Taiwan are suspended until further notice, on request of the Italian health authorities. Aircraft that were flying to Italy when the NOTAM was published, were cleared to land.

On 1 February after Belgium, Czechia, Greece, and Italy, all other Schengen countries visa application centers were closed, with the exception of France, suspending the issuing of visas to Chinese citizens.

Qatar Airways took the decision to suspend flights to mainland China from 3 February until further notice, due to significant operational challenges caused by entry restrictions imposed by several countries. Qatar Airways is the first carrier in the Middle East to do so. An ongoing review of operations will be conducted weekly with the intention to reinstate flights as soon as the restrictions are lifted.

Though some of the airlines cancelled flights to Hong Kong as well, British Airways, Finnair, and Lufthansa have not, and American Airlines continues operating a limited service to the area. Hong Kongs four airlines halved the flights to mainland China. The following airlines have so far reduced or cancelled flights to and from China:

On 31 January the United States declared the virus a public health emergency. Starting 2 February, all inbound passengers who have been to Hubei in the previous 14 days will be put under quarantine for up to 14 days. Any U.S. citizen who has traveled to the rest of mainland China will be allowed to continue their travel home if they are asymptomatic, but will be monitored by local health departments.

On 1 February Vietnam suspended all flights to and from China.

On 2 February India issued a travel advisory that warned all people residing in India to not travel to China, suspended E-visas from China, and further stated anyone who has traveled to China starting 15 January to an indefinite point in the future could be quarantined. New Zealand announced that it will deny entry to all travellers from China and that it will order its citizens to self-isolate for 14 days if they are returning from China. Indonesia and Iraq followed by also banning all travellers that visited China within the past 14 days.

On 3 February Indonesia announced it would ban passenger flights and also sea freights from and to China start on 5 February until further notice. In addition, live animal imports and other products followed by this decision. Minister of Trade Agus Suparmanto said "We will obviously stop live animals imports from China and are still considering banning other products". Turkey announced it would suspend all flights from China until the end of February and begin scanning passengers coming from South Asian countries at airports.

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