China’s quarantines – Do they know something we don’t?

We’ve all heard the stories about the strict quarantines imposed by the Chinese government on travelers arriving on planes to China. Spacesuit wearing “inspectors” check passengers for temperatures. Even people who sat a few rows away from someone with a slight temperature are whisked away in special ambulances, sirens blaring, to special security hospitals where they are held by force until deemed to safe to release.

These dramatic steps are usually explained as a reaction to SARS when the Chinese government was slow to respond to the crisis. But is that what is really going on?

As I pointed out in a previous blog (Spread and Incidence of Pandemic Flu), the reported incidence of the new H1N1 is much higher in Hong Kong than mainland China. Given that large numbers of people travel between Hong Kong and the mainland freely every day, how credible is this disparity?

If keeping the new H1N1 virus out of China is not the true motive for all the drama at the airports, then what is? Dr. Jonathan Metzl, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Michigan, recently went through the whole drama of being incarcerated due to a presumed contact with someone with the flu. He described his experience a couple of weeks ago in the Los Angeles Times. However, he adds some information that we don’t get from most of these stories:

China’s quarantine policy also has an unpleasant whiff of xenophobia. Chinese passengers were allowed to stay in their homes during the quarantine period instead of being confined to the high-security quarters the rest of us shared. The set-up promoted the narrative that H1N1 was being spread by “foreigners.”

I think Dr. Metzl has put his finger on the real reason for the histrionics at the airports: blame the foreign devils for the virus.

But why is this necessary? Xinhua could simply reprint any number of Western media sources all of which repeat the dogma that the virus originated in North America and has transmitted to the rest of the world via air travel. Somehow, that’s not enough. The US State Department has warned US citizens of dire consequences should they travel to China. Business and tourism has likely suffered as a result. Yet the Chinese government persists in its costly charade. They really, really want the Chinese public to blame foreigners for this disease.

We have been told by the WHO, which is run by the Chinese government’s hand-picked puppet, Margaret Chan, that this is a mild disease. If the Chinese government believed this, why would they take such strong steps to associate the virus with foreigners?

Maybe they know something we don’t.

[edited to add the following numbers:

Infections per 100,000 in Hong Kong: 68

Reported infections per 100,000 in Mainland China: 0.2.]


2 thoughts on “China’s quarantines – Do they know something we don’t?

  1. Monotreme, it may not be this wave that Beijing seeks to blame foreigners for, but the next.

    They’ll likely say that the second, more virulent, wave arose “naturally” from the first, as a result of natural forces of evolution. They’ll be able to tell their people they’ve been ready for this, donning spacesuits and quarantining the foreign devils, just waiting for this moment, making their very best effort to avoid that “word killer.”

    I mean, all this activity is a bit of overkill for a virus WHO and CDC say is not much more virulent than seasonal flu, right? Neither WHO nor CDC advocate closing borders or imposing travel restrictions. Schools everywhere are being encouraged to stay open unless large numbers of students and staff are affected. Officially, this is just not that big a deal. So why go to such lengths to blame foreigners for it?

    Maybe because it’s not this wave they really want to pin on us. They may know another one is coming, one they want absolutely nothing to do with in terms of association. So, China in their attempts to distance themselves even now from what happens then is acting at present like no other nation on earth in response to this virus.

    It’s the overture.

    It’s the preview of coming attractions.

    They’re practicing. This is their form of “risk communications.” Just as we see CDC warm up, try new memes out, so do the cadres in Beijing.

    “Blame the foreigners.”

    “We’ve done everything we can to protect you.”

    These are not necessary for this pandemic wave. But as a precursor to the next, one which Beijing’s actions telegraph is almost certain to occur, this would be a logical dress rehearsal.

    Only Beijing may be so certain that this will, in fact, occur.

    This round may be mild. For the next round, everyone may want to be wearing those space suits.

  2. Yes, Pixie, I agree. All this drama is in anticipation of a more lethal wave. One which the Chinese government appears to be absolutely certain will occur. Their actions just do not make sense if they anticipate a mild to moderate pandemic.

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