Stories of lockdown in China’s Hebei province after fresh Covid-19 outbreak

Images of residents of Shijiazhuang, in China's Hebei province, undergoing nucleic acid testing and being evacuated to central quarantine locations following the province's recent Covid-19 outbreak.
Images of residents of Shijiazhuang, in China's Hebei province, undergoing nucleic acid testing and being evacuated to central quarantine locations following the province's recent Covid-19 outbreak. © Douyin

The January 2 discovery of a cluster of coronavirus infections in Shijiazhuang, the capital of China’s northern Hebei province, has led to China’s most severe Covid-19 outbreak in five months, with 463 reported active infections in the province as of January 14 and one death. Authorities have placed the province’s three major cities, Shijiazhuang, Xingtai and Langfang, under lockdown starting from last week. However, videos posted on Chinese social media reveal differing quarantine experiences, as the authorities proceed with a more localised lockdown approach.


This January 9 Twitter video shows the city centre of Shijiazhuang emptied due to the city’s lockdown, which began on January 6, 2021. Flights and train services were also cancelled, and all outbound travel from the city has been barred for fear of spreading the virus to other areas, especially nearby Beijing.


'It’s the first time the pandemic has touched Shijiazhuang'

Da Zai, an entrepreneur who lives in Shijiazhuang and makes Douyin (the Chinese version of TikTok) videos sharing her daily life under lockdown, spoke to the FRANCE 24 Observers team about her experience:

When I first heard the news that all neighbourhoods would be locked down, it felt very sudden. It’s the first time that the pandemic has really touched Shijiazhuang. But although it came as a shock, we felt emotionally prepared because of what had already happened in Wuhan.

Many people went to the supermarket to stock up on food and necessities. Since, no one knows how long the lockdown would last, they wanted to be prepared. But as the days went on, the authorities said that they would ensure that designated personnel would be able to deliver food and other goods to us, and that other services (like markets or restaurants) would also be available.

This January 12 Douyin video shows an empty market in Langfang, another city in Hebei province that went into lockdown that day due to the new Covid-19 outbreak. The text reads: 'Stay strong, Langfang.'


We have to undergo two rounds of nucleic acid testing [a test to determine if we have Covid-19] because the virus has an incubation period of one or two weeks. The process is very well organised – they’ll call us out building by building with a megaphone, so we don’t have to wait too long. I think the local authorities really learned from the lockdown in Wuhan.

Da Zai’s January 12 Douyin video shows her getting nucleic acid testing for the second time.


In this January 8 Twitter video, the director of a police station in Shijiazhuang shows how a city bus has been transformed into a nucleic acid testing site with open air flow.


Last January, when the city of Wuhan went into lockdown during the first Covid-19 outbreak, residents complained about problems with getting fresh produce and others foods delivered, as well as rising prices. 

In Hebei, authorities have mobilised the entire province and neighbouring regions to support the locked-down cities by providing food and other daily necessities. However, access to fresh produce and other provisions still varies from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, and stricter lockdown measures are imposed in some communities based on their level of risk.

Da Zai and other volunteers who live in areas where abundant produce is available are helping deliver food to people in these areas.

I have some friends on Douyin who live in neighbourhoods that only have a small convenience store and no vegetable markets — so I’ll help buy food for them. I can’t leave my neighbourhood, but the mayor announced at a press conference that delivery men can still transport goods outside the community.

Da Zai’s January 14 Douyin video shows her buying food for a Douyin fan in a neighbourhood where lockdown is more strict. Other volunteers have also posted similar videos of them transporting food to different neighbourhoods on Douyin.


I can’t speak for other neighbourhoods, but there haven't been price increases here. Authorities have warned during press conferences that price gouging shouldn’t be happening and, if it does, customers can file complaints.

Residents of high-risk villages relocated to quarantine sites as their neighbourhoods are disinfected

More than 22 million people are currently under lockdown in Hebei province, but not everyone is able to quarantine in the comfort of their own home. On January 11, Chinese state media reported that more than 20,000 residents from 12 villages in Shijiazhuang’s Gaocheng District, a high-risk area where the majority of the first cases were detected, were evacuated to designated quarantine sites.

A video from Xianyang Daily, part of the Chinese state media, shows the January 11 relocation of more than 20,000 people from 12 villages in the Gaocheng District of Shijiazhuang to designated quarantine sites.


An official at China’s National Health Commission stated that the centralised isolation was a preventative measure to avoid new infections between those with and without the virus in the village.

Online videos also showed workers in hazmat suits disinfecting the streets of Gaocheng district before and after the relocation.

This January 14 news report from Xinhua, China’s state-run press agency, shows members of the Gaocheng fire brigade disinfecting the streets of a village in the district.


Shijiazhuang is also constructing a makeshift quarantine centre in Zhengding County that will provide 3,000 housing units, according to Xinhua.

A January 14 CCTV News video shows the construction of the quarantine centre in Shijiazhuang over 500 mu (82 acres) of land.


Hebei is not the only province that has been affected by the new outbreak. Heilongjiang, a northeastern province that borders Russia, has also put 5.2 million people under lockdown in the city of Suihua after reporting 16 new locally transmitted cases on January 13.

Da Zai said that although people’s personal and professional lives have been inconvenienced, they have generally complied as they feel that the measures imposed by the authorities are necessary.

Of course lockdown makes our lives more difficult, but people understand why it’s necessary because of what happened in Wuhan before. We also want it to end quickly, so we’re willing to do what it takes.