Chinese city offers cash for clues as Covid outbreak declared a ‘people’s war’

Residents of a Chinese city bordering Russia have been offered major cash rewards for tips on the continuing Delta outbreak, with local officials declaring a “people’s war” on the virus.

Authorities announced the 100,000 yuan ($15,640) rewards for residents in Heihei, in the north-eastern Heilongjiang Province, as its total tally of cases in this outbreak reached 240.

“It is hoped that the general public could actively cooperate with the tracing of the virus and provide clues to the probe,” the declaration said.

According to state media, officials have urged people in the border city to immediately report any instances of illegal hunting, animal smuggling, or people crossing the border to fish. It also warned of severe penalties for people who intentionally conceal relevant information.

China’s health commission reported another 62 locally transmitted symptomatic cases on Monday, and 43 on Tuesday, adding to the more than 940 cases recorded in at least 20 provinces nationally since October, in the country’s worst outbreak since Wuhan in early 2020.

The government is committed to a Covid Zero strategy, and is deploying an escalating array of measures in its attempts to eliminate the virus from the community again.

Henan province authorities have said they will “catch and kill” the virus within a week, with provincial party secretary Lou Yangsheng vowing to expand lockdowns and contact tracing as necessary.

Authorities in Chengdu have expanded tracing measures and orders, reportedly identifying some people if their mobile phones transmitted through the same cell tower in a 14 day period.

The measure, dubbed “spacial-temporal overlap”, classifies someone as a close contact if the phone signal was within 800 square metres of a case for more than 10 minutes, or if both parties spent at least 30 hours in the identified area over the two week period.

The method saw authorities order about 82,000 people who had visited a massive shopping complex to get tested and then self-isolate. Video footage purported to show some people climbing over fences to escape the mandatory testing requirement.

Earlier this month authorities locked down Shanghai Disneyland and tested all guests inside after a previous visitor was diagnosed with the illness.

With the outbreak continuing, health officials have called for an acceleration of booster shots and vaccinations to children.

Wang Qinghua, chief immunologist of the Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said it was previously thought children were largely unaffected by Covid-19, but the situation had changed as the virus mutated.

“We have seen increased infections in children, with the rates of severe illness and mortality surpassing influenza in some countries … and the hospitalisation rate for children is now more than 10 times higher than earlier this year,” he said, according to state media.

According to the Global Times, health authorities have set a target of vaccinating all eligible children aged 3 to 11 before the end of the year. More than 3.5m doses have been delivered to the age group so far, according to government data. Vaccinations are voluntary in China.

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