Jan 16th 2021ON JANUARY 10th an office worker surnamed Zhou was diagnosed with covid-19 in Xicheng, a district of Beijing. For officials under order
ON JANUARY 10th an office worker surnamed Zhou was diagnosed with covid-19 in Xicheng, a district of Beijing. For officials under orders to keep the virus out of China’s capital, this single case was grim, career-threatening news. They responded with a vigour that some other countries reserve for wartime invasions. As is the norm when anyone in China tests positive, Ms Zhou’s movements for the previous ten days were made public, down to noodle bars where she ate and train lines that she took. Internet users fumed that she had twice visited Shijiazhuang, a drab city of 11m people in the next-door province of Hebei, which has seen more than 400 virus cases since the new year. She should have stayed at home, or at least avoided the metro, netizens growled.
Almost 100 of Ms Zhou’s close contacts and thousands of workers near her office were swiftly tested. Authorities tested and quarantined her neighbours in Gu’an, a Beijing commuter town just inside Hebei. On January 12th officials took still sterner measures. Roads out of Gu’an were sealed and 500,000 residents told to quarantine for a week. Several cities in Hebei province, including Shijiazhuang, its capital, have been locked down to quell outbreaks. Some 22m people have been trapped at home.
In Beijing, growing fears of a second wave have led to ever-tighter rules. These range from the irritating—some…