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Chongqing Community Reacts to China's Optimized COVID-19 Response Measures

By KENNY DONGICHONGQING|Nov 20,2022

CHONGQING – In a community named Erlang Street, Jiulongpo District, an iChongqing reporter observed the administrative dynamic in his community since the beginning of the lockdown after the Chinese government released a circular on further optimizing the COVID-19 response, announcing 20 prevention and control measures recently.

“We firmly oppose two inappropriate approaches. One is the block-it-off approach, which resorts to extreme control measures, and the other is the let-it-go approach, which is irresponsible,” said Mi Feng, an National Health Commission spokesperson, at a news conference.

The outbreak is spreading rapidly in Chongqing, with new local infections — confirmed and asymptomatic carriers — reaching a record high of 4,744 on November 19, according to the municipal health commission. The city has mobilized more than 3,500 medical workers to treat patients in the makeshift hospitals.

Many Chongqing communities have reduced the test frequency to one time every two days. “I have heard about the policy, and I hope that our community’s strict measures can be eased very soon,” said Zhong, expressing ideas many people might share.

Regarding international exchanges, the new regulations canceled the “circuit breaker” mechanism for inbound flights and reduced the negative nucleic acid (negative COVID test) certificate requirement before entry. International routes in Chongqing resume flights to and from Dubai, Ho Chi Minh City, and Budapest on November 12, 15, and 18.

In response to the rising number of local cases, Chongqing is still implementing a series of response measures, such as building eight makeshift hospitals in places like Yuelai and Shizishan to treat people infected with SARSCOV2, the virus that creates the COVID-19 disease.

Organize nucleic acid tests orderly in the community

During the lockdown, the first and foremost task was organizing the community’s nucleic acid (COVID) tests.

Three residential buildings found positive cases; the community was enforced lockdown early on November 8, followed by a community-wide nucleic acid test. The community set the central square as the only testing site in previous practices.

Chongqing mainly adopts mixed sampling tests. Usually, 10 or 20 samples are mixed in one group to speed up the test and lower the medical expenditure.

However, this approach has caused concern among residents, where someone questioned the long line-up on November 9. “What if more residential buildings are quarantined due to the ‘mixed positive’ cases (for those in the same sampling group with at least a positive case)?” a resident said.

In response to this problem, some residents suggested that people in different buildings can do the test separately.

On November 10, many buildings spontaneously assigned their “building director,” who led the residents in the same building to do the test, avoiding the time run into other buildings’ lines.

“Separate nucleic acid (COVID) testing in each building has alleviated the fear of people and made the test more orderly,” said the staff member in charge of the community’s anti-pandemic affair.

Also, diverting residents of different buildings to multiple testing sites and opening a site for the residents who wished to go on their own served as a solution for unnecessary conflicts among residents.

“Dealing with those things was not easy, and we’re always facing new situations and adjusting our approach to manage it better, which is challenging,” said the person in charge.

The volunteers that stood out

Initialized by the community, residents set up a volunteer WeChat group to encourage people to participate in the community’s epidemic control work.

Most of the residents who participated were retirees, and some of them joined the 24-hour watch rotation.

“I will stay from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and after that, another volunteer will come and pick up my shift,” said Miss Qiu, a volunteer on duty in Unit 1 of Building 17, designated as a high-risk area and temporarily under lockdown. “We (volunteers) don’t work at night. The security guards of the property company will come to watch the night shift.”

Mr. Wang, on duty during the lockdown of Building 33, told reporters that the community would serve free lunch and water them during the day.

Ma Dailiang, Deputy Director of the Publicity Department of the CPC Chongqing Municipal Committee, said at the government’s press conference on epidemic prevention and control work on November 16 that the city has mobilized about 517,000 volunteers to participate in various positions against the pandemic, including citizens at home, taxi drivers and courier workers.

A volunteer worker in white protective gear is cleaning the trash in a community of Erlang Street, Jiulongpo Chongqing. (Photo provided to iChongqing)

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