China’s state-run Global Times ran an editorial on Wednesday calling for the Chinese people to unite against the Wuhan coronavirus epidemic, which of course means “trust and obey the Communist Party” in practice.
The article was surprisingly focused on chastising citizens who lie about potential exposure to the virus while traveling within China or abroad.
Such an editorial from a Chinese Communist Party organ suggests the party is embarrassed by the number of people testing positive for the coronavirus when they arrive at foreign airports. Coronavirus infections have been detected in 26 countries as of Thursday, the vast majority of them travelers who recently visited China.
Doctors say the virus can lurk inside a patient for up to 14 days without causing symptoms of illness, which is why so many travel bans and quarantine procedures focus on people who have visited China within 14 days. This creates a political problem for Beijing, which is eager to portray travel bans as unnecessary, or even denounce them as efforts to slander China and induce panic – a case that becomes very difficult to make if infected travelers from China keep turning up in foreign cities. There is also apprehension about a surge of travelers returning home from Lunar New Year festivities and bringing the Wuhan virus with them.
The Global Times, therefore, chastised the “few” troublesome people who have been less than honest about traveling through Hubei province and possible exposure to the virus:
Many places have reported cases in which people deliberately concealed their travel history to Wuhan city or Hubei Province and infected many locals. The non-cooperative acts of a few have caused great harm.
While people across the country are jointly fighting the epidemic, such actions should be strongly condemned. Criticism of such behavior should be intensified so that those who are still doing the same or intend to do so would be deterred.
As the post-holiday peak passenger flow is coming, it is now urgent to strengthen the rules of disclosing these people’s travels and contacts. We support the legitimate investigation and punishment of those who deliberately conceal their travels to Wuhan or contact with anyone from Wuhan. Through these cases, we need to let the public understand that during such an epidemic, it would be considered criminal to cause serious harm by refusing to cooperate.
Epidemic prevention and control is the top priority for the moment. Many cities have shut their external and internal public transportation systems. Most companies are closed, paying a huge economic price. Citizens are suffering from limited freedom of movement. All those measures aim to detect infected people, confirming their previous trajectory of contacts with others and blocking their future contacts with the outside world.
At this point, if anyone deliberately conceals his or her dangerous trips and contacts with people, willfully interacts with others and causes severe consequences of infection, the behavior can be considered a crime.
The Wall Street Journal on Thursday reported Saudi Arabia has suspended all travel to China, while Taiwan has temporarily banned all cruise ships from docking after Japan quarantined 3,700 passengers and crew aboard a cruise ship and found at least 10 coronavirus infections. 14 other countries have announced significant restrictions on travel from China, including the United States.
On the other hand, Indonesia announced on Wednesday that it will not penalize Chinese tourists and workers already in the country who overstay their visas by up to one month, giving them an opportunity to stay out of China until the virus epidemic is controlled.