ISSN 2330-717X

The Road Ahead Following Wuhan’s ‘Lockdown’ – Analysis


Wuhan, boasting a population of thousands and millions above has been the first city ever in China’s history to have experienced a lockdown as a result of an epidemic. As far as epidemics are concerned, the news of Wuhan’s “lockdown” may seem too little too late to many. Nonetheless, the closure of the city is a step in the right direction in attempts to prevent, or at least halt the progress of outbreaks from happening in in the neighboring cities. That said, “locking down” is but the first of many policies put together to manage the new coronavirus epidemic. Depending on “lockdowns” alone is not going to solve the problem at hand and would certainly lead to a slippery slope of further failed policies if one were to keep at it. 

Logically speaking, there were a couple of reasons as to why the Chinese government had decided to seal off Wuhan’s roads leading to the outside world on January 23, 2020, followed by road closures in Hubei a few days later. First of all, the government did not have a prior firm grasp of the situation, all that could be inferred at that given point in time was that the situation was not looking up. True to their inference, the Wuhan epidemic begun worsening following January 23.

Secondly, neither the government nor the science community had a clear understanding of the parameters surrounding the virus, namely its transmission rate. At present, the country’s experts are basing policies and countermeasures on the 2-3 transmission rate, which is to say for everyone infected individual out there, 2 to 3 individuals are likely to contract the virus. Under such circumstances, it was a given that the policies and countermeasures were designed with the worst-case scenario in mind.

Sealing off Wuhan from the outside world was the most logical thing to do, given it was the epicenter or ground zero of the outbreak and that the intention was to contain the virus as locally as it can to prevent outbreaks from taking place in the cities within the vicinity.

Yet the bigger question now, is what lies ahead for the country following a “lockdown”?

Again, basing predictions on nothing but sheer logic, three outcomes are likely to result from the incident. The first in which the “lockdown” is rendered pointless as attempts to contain the virus has failed and it has now spread to all of China. Wuhan would be the first city to pay the price yet not achieve the objectives it sought to accomplish. Failing to contain the virus, Wuhan’s “lockdown” at best, would only seem like an attempt to “self-quarantine and self-monitor”, which would result in another worst-case scenario, a second or third Wuhan popping up in the country. This also signifies that attempts to subdue or manage the virus has gone beyond Wuhan’s control measures.

The second scenario, Wuhan has successfully contained the virus, as with its neighboring cities. Subsequent “Wuhans” would no longer appear and all is a happily ever after. Naturally, this would be the most idyllic outcome, as it shows that the “lockdown” and quelling attempts have proven successful. The third scenario would be that Wuhan has successfully contained the virus, but its sister cities have not. In which case this would pose a greater threat to Wuhan and cause a deja-vu moment to recur.  

So clearly, the road ahead doesn’t seem too bright either.

ANBOUND believes that apart from erecting a novel coronavirus dedicated hospital to cope with the ongoing issue, there is a need for the city to create “safe zones” that are ran by the community management as so to ensure that parts of the city remain safe, clean and functional.

To start off, the government needs to advocate the need for safe zones and get down to constructing them. A haven that is built through the consensus of many, an area that remains uncontaminated and untainted, an area that would allow its denizens to work and live in peace. Such safe zones need to be officially certified and recognized before being fully functional.

Secondly, these proposed safe zones should be built on the grounds that infected individuals seek treatment at novel coronavirus dedicated hospitals and are being monitored, only then can the safe zones remain virus-free.

Thirdly, in order to ensure that the safe zones are ran in an orderly manner as well as to take the burden off the government’s shoulders, procedures and regulations need to be tightened as so to prevent recurring episodes of outbreak. Meanwhile, civilians in the vicinity need to be taught ways to manage themselves in a self-sufficient manner. At any point an outbreak was to take place, these certified safe zones would have their titles or licenses stripped with effective immediacy.

Fourth, allocate a set amount of resources to these safe communities, encourage people to work hand-in-hand with one another to thrive in such tough times. 

Following the construction of “safe zones” in Wuhan, expansion of these zones comes next, gradually. To do so, it would involve further identifying potential infected individuals or individuals who are exposed to a high-risk danger area. Concurrently, as urban medical facilities identify, target and compile a list of high-risk area in attempts to control the outbreak on a localized scale, this would also ensure that urban emergency programs are carried out in the utmost coordinated fashion possible. Lastly, when Wuhan’s “safe zones” have been expanded to the point where there is little to no risk of at all, the city can begin its restructuring efforts again. 

Once a safe Wuhan is fully up and running again, the road ahead would be much smoother. Under the watchful eyes of the government, the city will experience a significantly less detrimental outbreak and in fact, can extend a helping hand to the neighboring cities to combat the situation. At the end of the day, if safe cities can arise from the ensuing chaos, China’s shot at combating the epidemic would significantly improve by then. This isn’t just a squarely a “lockdown” but the events succeeding the lockdown. So long as great care is taken following the “lockdown” of Wuhan, there is a chance of ensuring that the history does not repeat itself again and maybe, even guarantee a safe, clean and healthy city in the long run. 

*By ANBOUND “Wuhan Pneumonia” Emergency Response Team, Pan Yu

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Anbound Consulting (Anbound) is an independent Think Tank with the headquarter based in Beijing. Established in 1993, Anbound specializes in public policy research, and enjoys a professional reputation in the areas of strategic forecasting, policy solutions and risk analysis. Anbound's research findings are widely recognized and create a deep interest within public media, academics and experts who are also providing consulting service to the State Council of China.

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