101 East

Virus Lockdown in Beijing

We explore life under lockdown as Beijing employs increasingly stringent measures to contain the coronavirus epidemic.

Beijing is a city under lockdown.

Life in the Chinese capital has ground to a halt, as authorities wage a desperate battle to contain the coronavirus epidemic.

Sebastien Le Belzic, a journalist based in Beijing for 13 years, has found himself largely confined to his apartment, giving him a front-row seat to the government’s attempts to control the virus.

Turning the camera on his own daily routine with his wife and son, Sebastien provides a rare inside glimpse into life under quarantine.

The picture that emerges is one of a city where subways usually crammed with commuters are eerily empty, where multilane highways notorious for traffic gridlock are devoid of vehicles, a city where not just people, but even dogs, wear masks.

Venturing out, Sebastien and his wife don the required face masks and prepare to go through the numerous checkpoints and roadblocks around the city.

“The entire apparatus of the Communist Party, its neighbourhood committees, which usually monitors residents’ political and social behaviour, have now been turned into specialised virus watchdogs,” he says.

“Temperature monitoring, mandatory quarantine after leaving the city, mandatory masks, Beijingers have slowly disappeared from view in their city, forced to stay home by both the government and fear.”

Sebastien also reveals how Chinese authorities are tracking people’s whereabouts – there are now apps that allow residents to geolocate people who have been diagnosed.

With most of the world’s media cut off from the capital, 101 East follows one journalist’s “chronicle of confinement”.