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Responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in February 2020

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This article documents the chronology of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in February 2020, which originated in Wuhan, China in December 2019. Some developments may become known or fully understood only in retrospect. Reporting on this outbreak began in December 2019.

Responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in February 2020 Intro articles: 140

Events, reactions, and measures in mainland China

1 February

Import duties and US-specific tariffs were exempted on imported materials donated for epidemic prevention and control, including VAT and sales tax; the duties and tariffs previously levied were to be refunded.[1][2]

The Ministry of Ecology and Environment issued a notice late in the evening to deploy medical wastewater and urban sewage supervision, regulate emergency medical wastewater treatment, sterilisation and disinfection requirements, in order to prevent the spread of new coronavirus through faeces and sewage,[3] after the faeces of a patient was tested positive for the virus in Shenzhen.[4]

The Department of Civil Affairs of Hubei Province suspends all marriage registrations starting on 3 February 2020.[5]

Huanggang, Hubei implements a much stricter control, allowing only one person from each household every two days to be on the street for purchases, unless for medically-related reasons, required for epidemic control, or as shop workers.[6]

Alibaba Group announced free taxi service for health professionals in Wuhan.[2]

Hunan government required companies in the province not to resume business before 24:00 on 9 February; the new semester is not to start earlier than 17 February for primary and secondary schools and kindergartens, and 24 February for post-secondary institutions.[7] Tianjin government issued a notice to postpone business resumption and the start of the new semester.[8]

Huanggang, Hubei converted Dabie Mountain Regional Medical Centre to an emergency treatment hospital, adding 1000 new beds.[9] Huoshenshan Hospital was fully electrified on 23:49.[10]

China Securities Regulatory Commission waived the 2020 annual listing fee that listed companies in Hubei are required to pay to the stock exchange.[11]

China Federation of Radio and Television Associations issued a notice to pause the filming of all films and TV dramas in mainland China during the epidemic.[12]

310 Hubei citizens were repatriated from Thailand, Malaysia, and Japan.[13]

Apple Inc. temporarily closed all Apple Stores in mainland China until 24:00 on 9 February.[14]

China's National Health Commission (NHC) announced new regulations Saturday requiring that all who lose their lives to the coronavirus must be cremated at the nearest facility. "No farewell ceremonies or other funeral activities involving the corpse shall be held," according to the new ruling.[15]

The Badminton World Federation announced it has postponed the 2020 Lingshui China Masters tournament, originally scheduled to be held from 25 February to 1 March.[16]

2 February

Wuhan's Epidemic Prevention and Control Headquarters[17] arranged for Jointown Pharmaceutical to overtake the warehouse management of Wuhan Red Cross[18][19] after days of scandals and controversies regarding the Red Cross' incompetence, extreme delays in allocating donation resources, and unexplained apparent misallocation of crucial medical supplies.[20][21][22][23][24]

On the same day, the Prevention and Control HQ issued a set of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) prescriptions "to help treat the infection".[25] This move follows the 22 January recommendation from the National Health Commission to use TCM to treat the disease.[26] The same official file that contains the prescription also demands that all patients in Wuhan be treated by TCM.[27]

Wenzhou, Zhejiang announces implementing the same measure as Huanggang, where every household may send one person every two days outside for purchases, from 00:00 on 2 February to 24:00 on 8 February.[28]

Huoshenshan Hospital completed construction in the morning and was transferred to the military, half a day earlier than scheduled.[29][30]

Hubei allows imported and re-imported masks that are unlisted in China to be sold in the provincial market.[31]

The Ministry of Transport extended the cut-off time for the minibus toll-free period of the 2020 Spring Festival to 24:00 on 8 February 2020.[32]

Meituan starts an initiative to disinfect all shared bikes in eight mainland cities regardless of the brand.[33]

With immediate effect, Wuhan's government announced the quarantining of "all suspected patients and those known to have been in close contact with a confirmed case." It stated "Patients shall cooperate. Whoever refuses to cooperate will be subject to enforcement by the police."[34]

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has asked the European Union to facilitate the sale of medical supplies "through commercial channels". According to a Chinese government statement, the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said the European Union will try its best and coordinate all necessary resources to provide assistance to China.[35][36]

3 February

The Chinese New Year holiday period ended after having been extended for a week. Mainland stock exchanges reopened, Shanghai Stock Exchange falling by 7.72% and Shenzhen Stock Exchange by 8.45%, with a total of 3,177 shares triggering the limit down of 10%.[37] The RMB to USD exchange rate fell through 7.00, opening at 6.9249 and closing at 7.0257.[38]

In Wuhan, the People's Liberation Army Ground Force takes over medical supplies delivery.[39] "The Beijing leadership realised that almost all the donation points in Hubei and Wuhan have had delivery problems, that there are some opportunists using this crisis to make money," according to a military source.[40]

4,000 passengers on the World Dream cruise ship were quarantined, after four among them positive to the coronavirus.[41]

4 February

The People's Bank of China provided an additional 500 billion yuan (roughly US$71 billion) of liquidity into the country's financial system on Tuesday, following 1.2 trillion yuan (over US$170 billion) the previous day.[42]

Chinese state-backed importers of liquefied natural gas (LNG) are investigating the invocation of force majeure to halt existing LNG contracts, as the coronavirus outbreak depresses energy demand.[43]

5 February

The National Health Commission releases the fifth diagnostic criteria. For Hubei, CT scan results are no longer required for declaring suspected cases,[44] and "clinical diagnoses" may now be made using "imaging features of the pneumonia", without nucleic acid testing required.[45] For suspected cases, "respiratory symptoms" are now admitted as part of the criteria nationwide.[46][47]

Hubei released an additional ¥200 million (US$28.56 million) as special subsidies for the construction of treatment sites.[48]

The first shelter hospital[49] is put into use.[50] Designated hospitals in Wuhan will now accept only serious cases (confirmed or suspected); other existing and future patients would be redirected to shelter hospitals or community quarantine points.[51]

The Wuhan Institute of Virology applied for a patent of Gilead's antiviral drug, remdesivir, as applied toward 2019-nCoV, in China. The granting of a patent by Chinese authorities was not certain, but a patent would provide China with leverage in negotiating license fees with Gilead. The institute said that it made the patent application "out of national interest, and won't exercise its patent rights if foreign pharmaceutical firms work together with China to curb the contagion." Seeking a patent instead of a "compulsory license" option does demonstrate some sensitivity on China's part toward honoring Gilead's intellectual property rights. Gilead is working with China on Phase III clinical trials there.[52][53][54][55]

6 February

Dali City apologises for intercepting and requisitioning 300 thousand masks designated as emergency supplies for Chongqing[56] and promises to "return" all of them.[57]

The start of the new semester is postponed to at least the end of February in Zhejiang,[58] Jiangsu,[58] Chongqing,[59] and Shanghai.[60]

Sichuan[61] and Guangdong[62] rolled out measures to help small and medium-sized enterprises in response to the epidemic.

Tencent news issued a statement saying screenshots of its Epidemic Tracker circulating on the Internet showing substantially higher numbers are doctored.[63][64][65][66]

China announces that they will halve the tariff on US$75 billion goods imported from America, and Chinese official media Global Times commented that China is considering the use of disaster provision in the US-China Phase One trade deal, which was signed in the previous month.[67]

7 February

Li Wenliang dies. Wenliang was a 34-year-old ophthalmologist at Wuhan Central Hospital and one of eight doctors who tried to share information about the coronavirus when it was first emerging, only to be reprimanded by Wuhan police. He likely became infected by the coronavirus while treating patients during January. His death from complications of the infection is declared at 2:58 a.m. local time.[68][69]

On 7 February, the Joint Defence and Control Mechanism of the State Council introduced a scheme of "one province for one city", where 16 provinces would provide medical force support for every city in Hubei except Wuhan.[70][71]

Hangzhou imposed a temporary ban on retail pharmacies selling fever and cough medicines, asking citizens with the symptoms to see a doctor instead.[72]

8 February

Shenzhen[73][74] and Shanghai[75][76][77] roll out measures to support companies and reduce costs, including measures estimated to reduce ¥30 billion (US$4.3 billion) in Shanghai.[78]

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) issued an additional ¥200 million (US$28.66 million) for Hubei to improve the treatment capacity of patients with severe infections.[79]

Leishenshan Hospital begins operation.[80]

The National Health Commission announces the temporary official names and acronyms for the pneumonia in Chinese and English, respectively 新型冠状病毒肺炎 (pinyin: xīnxíng guānzhuàng bìngdú fèiyán) / Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia and 新冠肺炎 (pinyin: xīnguān fèiyán) / NCP.[81]

10 February

Business has now resumed in all 30 mainland province-level divisions, apart from Hubei.[82]

Food prices in China have risen on month of January. According to the consumer price index (CPI) the price of pork rose 8.5%, while the CPI came in at 5.4%. The reason may be due to food hoarding, besides the disruptions of supply chains due to transportation, lockdown measures and holiday demand.[83][84] The CPI is the highest since October 2011.[85]

Chinese Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping has appeared in public wearing a protective mask and his temperature was checked while visiting the Anhuali Community in Chaoyang District of Beijing.[86]

11 February

Shenzhen University announced the successful development of a new coronavirus antibody detection kit capable of obtaining a result in 22 minutes and reducing the risk of infection of medical staff.[87]

The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security expanded existing relief measures for micro, small, and medium size enterprises.[88] The NDRC announced its intention to "strictly curb the practice of restricting the resumption of production and production by simple and crude methods such as via approval."[89] The Ministry of Transport (MoT) introduced measures to for the transportation security of both citizens, especially migrant workers, and animal feed.[90] The State Taxation Administration allowed enterprises affected by the epidemic to carry forward losses up to 8 years.[91] The Ministry of Commerce issued a notice to ensure security of living materials in key cities.[92]

Guangdong passed an emergency legislation banning the trading and overeating of wildlife and devolves emergency legislative powers to county-level governments.[93] The provincial government authorised Guangzhou and Shenzhen governments with the power of the emergency requisitioning of houses, facilities, and materials for emergency epidemic response. This was the first time a government was authorised with the power of requisitioning private property since the 1978 Chinese economic reform and since the passage of Property Law in 2007.[94]

China Banking Regulatory Commission proposed to extend Hubei automobile insurance coverage by one month.[95] Shanghai Stock Exchange announced the full exemption of the bill service fees charged to Hubei legal persons in Hubei from February to December 2020.[96]

Shanghai introduced measures to support tech companies and exempt the rent of SMSEs due to nationalised enterprises.[97] Jiangsu's bank and government branches introduced financial measures including liquidity support and credit placement.[98] Zhejiang implemented a one-time subsidy for key acquisition and processing enterprises of poultry and fresh milk in the province.[99]

Cainiao released measures to aid the supply chain and logistics industry.[100] Tmall reduced costs for vendors for the first half of 2020.[101]

A man in Chengdu was under police investigation for interference with the prevention and control of the epidemic.[102]

The first batch of central reserve frozen pork arrived at Wuhan.[103]

Apple extended its device warranty to provide a one-time exception.[104]

12 February

A State Council executive meeting was convened, which emphasised efforts to restore the economy to normal activity and asked local governments to implement measures.[105] The MoT and NHC issued a joint Notice to forbid quarantining of material security providers and drivers if they have not entered Wuhan, provided temperature checks are passed and necessary protection measures are being taken.[106]

China National Railway Group stopped selling seatless tickets and initiated measures to control train occupancy.[107] Tencent announced free cloud service for SMSEs.[108]

Jiangsu rolled out measures to help economic development during the epidemic.[109] Zhejiang decreased the price of enterprise utilities until 30 April.[110] Shanghai decreased enterprise gas price and waived residential gas arrear penalties.[111]

Yunnan now required QR code scanning for entering all public spaces.[112] Airbnb suspended booking in Beijing until 30 April.[113] Foshan, Guangdong was to require advance declaration for vehicles to enter the city starting 13 Feb.[114]

Chinese Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping ordered tax cut to invigorate the economy. Many organizations were ordered to keep rents low and banks to keep interest low. A stimulus package is expected.[115]

Honghu, Hubei began an official investigation into a controversial fine of ¥42630 (US$6110.54) on a local pharmacy for selling 44,000 single-use masks stocked at ¥0.6 (US$0.086) each for ¥1 (US$0.143) each, as it violated a province-wide ban on selling medical items related to the epidemic 15% above the stocking price during the epidemic. The move came after heavy criticism online after the fining became known.[116][117]

13 February

Hubei released 1.3 million masks for civil use, providing pharmacies at ¥1 each and requiring them to sell at the "affordable price" of ¥2 (US$0.287) each.[118]

In Hubei, The Zhangjiawan District of Shiyan[119] entered wartime control starting 00:00, as well as Dawu County in Xiaogan,[120] the status to be reviewed at least once every 14 days.

Hubei postponed business resumption and start of new semester across the province; businesses were not to resume before 24:00 on 20 Feb.[121][122] Guangxi prohibited the start of new semester before 1 March.[123]

Wuhan enacts a new rule prohibiting people from leaving their neighbourhoods for non-medical reasons, updating the curfew to a full lockdown.[124]

14 February

The central districts of Yunmeng County in Xiaogan, Hubei entered wartime control.[125] Huanggang, Hubei escalated control starting 00:00, prohibiting non-essential persons or vehicles from entering and exiting communities and initiating the organised distribution of basic necessities.[126]

A new test kit was developed by a team led by Zhong Nanshan, able to yield a result in fifteen minutes with a very high sensitivity and expected to raise the positive detection rate.[127][128]

Huanggang decided to convert another hospital as a secondary medical institution for COVID-19, after Dabie Mountain Regional Medical Centre.[129] Xiantao, Hubei implemented mask ex-factory price control, requiring the ex-factory price of single use medical masks not to exceed ¥1.20 (US$0.172) each and non-medical ones ¥1.00 (US$0.143) each.

Beijing required all persons returning to the city to self-quarantine for 14 days.[130]

Shenzhen Metro would start using real-name system starting 16 Feb for epidemic tracing, with passengers able to self-register the carriages they ride in by scanning the QR code in the train.[131]

The Office of the State Council Education Steering Committee prohibited all after-school training institutions from conducting offline training in any form.[132]

All mainland IELTS exams in March were cancelled.[133]

15 February

Honghu, Hubei entered wartime control at 00:00, the decision announced in the evening of 13 Feb.[134]

Jingmen, Hubei escalated control, prohibiting outside vehicles and persons from entering its central districts except for medical and living supplies, and shutting down all business except approved pharmacies, supermarkets, and hotels.[135]

The MoT announced that all toll roads country-wide would be toll-free from 00:00 17 Feb to the end of the epidemic response.[136] The Ministry of Science and Technology introduced measures to strengthen the biosafety management of SARS-CoV-2 high-level virus microbiology laboratories.[137]

Hubei's Provincial Party Committee issued another ¥100 million (US$14.3 million) to local authorities for epidemic control.[138]

The Central Bank of China required cash from outbreak areas to be stored for at least 14 days before entering market, 7 days for other areas.[139][140] PBC branches reporting to its Guangzhou branch would destroy all cash retrieved from hospitals, agricultural markets, and public transit.[141]

16 February

Hubei implements "hard quarantine" in units of natural villages; no outsiders are to be allowed in and each household is allowed one person every three days to go out for provisions and urgent agricultural material, on designated routes and in limited time.[142] All nonessential public spaces in Hubei are to be closed and all gatherings forbidden.[143] Following its decision on the previous day, the city of Wuxue in Huanggang now bans residents and vehicles without medical or epidemic control reasons from the streets. Anyone in violation is to be sent to a stadium for "centralised compulsory study" about the laws and epidemic response,[144] and any such cars would be seized.[145] All communities in Dongcheng District, Beijing are required to implement closed management.[146]

Guizhou resumes normal traffic, removing all temporary quarantine checkpoints.[147]

The first two autopsies of patients killed by SARS-CoV-2 were carried out in Jinyintan Hospital; its pathology was obtained and submitted for testing.[148] A vaccine of the virus developed by national institutions began its animal experiment stage; clinical trials are expected in April at the earliest.[149]

The NHC urges for the reduction of the workload of grassroots workers, asking for all legally unnecessary procedures to be halted.[150] The General Administration of Customs has introduced 10 measures to support foreign trade enterprises to resume production.[151] Instructed by the Office of the State Council, Alipay is now developing a national unified system of "Health Code" first used in Hangzhou on 11 Feb, a digital health evaluation certificate for the safe resumption of business.[152]

Wuhan released a partial list of hospitals accepting patients not with COVID-19.[153]

The first internet hospitals open in Hunan.[154] Yunnan expedites the approval processes for medical supplies.[155] All secondary and tertiary hospitals in Beijing would start operating on an appointment basis by 25 and 20 Feb respectively for all non-emergency departments.[156]

Nanjing and Suzhou implements real-name system for public transit, following Shenzhen.[157]

Huanggang announced that any person with fever or cough taking the initiative to see a doctor would receive a financial reward of ¥500 (US$71.6).[158]

In response to allegations that patient zero was its research student, Wuhan Institute of Virology released a statement saying no members of the institute were infected and that the student had been working in other provinces for years.[159]

WHO-China Joint Mission on Coronavirus Disease with 25 member led by Dr. Bruce Aylward and Dr Wannian Liang and consisted of experts from China, Germany, Japan, Korea, Nigeria, Russia, Singapore, USA  and WHO started an investigation.[160]

17 February

Following its announcement the previous night, Xiaogan now bans all its urban residents from leaving home, all its rural residents from wandering, visiting neighbours, and gathering, and all vehicles from roads. Exceptions are made for medical reasons, medical staff, providers of medical and living provision, pregnancies, deaths, essential vehicles, and others granted permissions. Violators would be subject to up to 10 days of detention and put on the dishonest list.[161]

Following its announcement on the previous day, Hangzhou resumes normal traffic and public transport service.[162]

18 February

The State Council introduced exemptions of enterprise social security and housing fund contributions.[163] The State Taxation Administration (STA) extended the February taxation filing deadline outside Hubei to 28 February.[164] The State Council and Ministry of Finance (MoF) announced allocating more budget this year to areas heavily affected by the epidemic.[165]

Wuhan passes its strictest control measures.[166] Tianjin now requires QR code scanning for entering public spaces and transport services.[167]

Yiwu International Trade City reopened for business.[168]

Shanghai requires educational institutions to conduct online education when the new semester starts on 2 March, so that student will not go to school.[169]

19 February

The NHC published the sixth pilot version of Diagnostic and Treatment Plan of the Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia,[170] which removed the category of clinical diagnosis introduced in the previous edition for Hubei, as well as adjusted several descriptions, criteria, and treatment guidelines of COVID-19,.

Following its announcement on the previous day, Zhejiang now requires declaration for vehicles entering the province.[171] Meanwhile, public transport across the province apart from Wenzhou will now resume normal service.[172]

Wuhan bans all vehicles from roads apart from essential vehicles.[173]

Hunan introduced measures to support businesses.[174] Chengdu adjusted its epidemic control procedures and business resumption would no longer require approval.[175]

20 February

Hubei requires businesses in the province not to resume before 10 March, except for essential industries.[176]

Wenzhou removed all checkpoints except in Yueqing and reopened highways.[177]

Wuhan requires residents to measure their temperature twice daily and report any measurements exceeding 37.3 °C (99.1 °F).[178]

The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security authorises provinces to exempt certain social security contributions from SMSEs starting February for up to five months.[179]

21 February

More than 500 cases has been confirmed in five prisons in Hubei, Shandong, and Zhejiang.[180] Following the news of the outbreak, the responsible officials in Shandong and Hubei were sacked.[181][182]

Henan and Shandong removed all road quarantine measures.[183][184]

Gansu adjusts its emergency response level for COVID-19 from level 1 to level 3.[185]

Following some public confusion with the data released, Hubei prohibited the subtracting of clinically diagnosed cases.[186] A corrected province-wide statistical report was available late in the evening.[187]

Wuhan finished the testing of all existing suspected patients, patients with fever, and people with close contact.[188]

22 February

Hubei introduced measures to reduce business cost.[189]

Liaoning adjusted its COVID-19 emergency response level from level 1 to level 3.[190]

Wuhan requires a 14-day quarantine for patients discharged from COVID-19.[191]

23 February

Guizhou adjusted its emergency response level for COVID-19 from level 1 to level 3,[192] and Shanxi to level 2.[193]

24 February

WHO-China Joint Mission on COVID-19 held a press conference in Beijing releasing the main findings of the mission report. The major findings were in five aspects including the knowledge about the virus itself, the epidemic situation, the characteristics of the epidemic (or the kinetics of transmission), the severity of the disease, and the strategies and measures taken by the Chinese government.[160]

Quarantine measures in Wuhan were eased slightly, with non-residents allowed to leave the city under certain conditions.[194] The notice was declared null and void hours later as it was published without the proper authorisation. Several officials behind the order were reprimanded as a result.[195]

Yunnan adjusted its emergency response level from level 1 to level 3,[196] and Guangdong and Jiangsu to level 2.[197][198] Jiangxi adjusted its levels to level 3 or level 2 depending on the risk of the county.[199]

Draft legislation was introduced to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress with a comprehensive ban of the trading and overeating of wildlife.[200][201][202]

The Third Session of the 13th CPPCC National Committee originally scheduled for 3 March was postponed.[203]

25 February

In response the epidemic situation in South Korea and an apparent significant surge of demand for flight tickets from South Korea to Shandong cities, Qingdao will now quarantine all persons entering with a travel history of areas with the epidemic,[204] Weihai will now quarantine all persons entering from Japan and South Korea for 14 days,[205] Shenyang will now test the temperature of all passengers entering from the city,[206] and Dalian will now include all foreigners into its epidemic control mechanism.[207]

The State Council introduced an exemption of the VAT of small-scale taxpayers in Hubei for three months,[208] as well as aid measures for individual businesses[209] and stimulus measures for migrant workers and university graduates.[210]

Inner Mongolia adjusted its emergency response level to level 3.[211]

Guangzhou will now test all inpatients for SARS-CoV-2.[212]

Shenzhen introduced a legislation draft for public comment, intending to ban the consumption of all non-aquatic animals except for nine enumerated.[213][212]

26 February

Beijing required foreign travellers arriving from areas affected by COVID-19 to be quarantined for 14 days.[214]

National measures were introduced to aid business resumption, clamp down on malicious disruptors of traffic and logistics, and prohibit the excessive raising of essential medical supplies or disruption of market order.[215][216]

Jilin adjusted its emergency response level to level 2,[217] and Hainan to level 3.[218] Fujian adjusted its level to level 2 or 3 based on the risk of the region.[219]

Yantai, Shandong will now test all persons entering China from the city for SARS-CoV-2 for free.[220]

Responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in February 2020 Events, reactions, and measures in mainland China articles: 83