Severity: Critical Alert

Transportation: Officials lifting transport, business restrictions in parts of Hubei Province, China, as of March 13. Measures continue in high-risk areas.

The locations affected by this alert are:

  • Wuhan, Hubei Province
  • Xiangyang, Hubei Province
  • Shiyan, China

This alert began 13 Mar 2020 08:45 GMT and is scheduled to expire 31 Mar 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Preventative restrictions
  • Location(s): Hubei Province (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Transport and business disruptions, increased security, movement restrictions

Summary
The Hubei government has begun to lift restrictions in some areas of the province as of March 13 amid decreasing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases. Officials are classifying cities and counties in the province as low-, medium-, and high-risk areas; regions designated as low or medium risk will enjoy fewer restrictions. Authorities are allowing transport to resume throughout the province partially; however, travel outside of Hubei remains suspended. Security personnel will continue to monitor city and provincial borders to prevent people from departing the province. Checkpoints are in place at the entrances to communities and on roads throughout the province. Suspected patients exhibiting mild symptoms are not allowed to seek medical help outside their home district; officials will treat or quarantine suspected cases at designated local facilities. Officials are allowing companies to reopen throughout the province, though businesses must receive government approval of their COVID-19 prevention and emergency response plans before resuming operations. Entertainment establishments will remain closed indefinitely, and authorities continue to postpone the start of the school semester throughout the province.

The government continues to designate much of Hubei, including Wuhan, as high risk. Officials are allowing people to move more freely provided they have obtained a health certification; however, people in high-risk regions are limited to chartered services. As of March 13, public transport remains closed in all high-risk areas. Authorities are allowing some businesses to resume in high-risk areas. In Wuhan, officials continue to prioritize prevention and government operations, as well as companies that provide daily necessities or are critical to supply chains. In other high-risk areas, officials are allowing service organizations, including insurance and finance, logistics companies, and some manufacturing to resume.

As of March 12, officials have listed Qianjiang, Jingzhou, and Wuxue cities, as well as Zhuxi and Gong'an counties, as low and medium-risk locations. Though the intensity of restrictions varies by location, residents in these areas with a health certification can travel throughout Hubei Province. People in these areas may use air, ground, and maritime transport as providers resume operations. Officials will use temperature checks and health screenings for intercity passengers, and some public transport may remain closed or limited until authorities can implement required screening equipment. Businesses in low and medium-risk areas may resume operations, except entertainment venues and other businesses that draw crowds, such as gyms and salons. Companies still require local government approval before reopening.

Despite the reduced restrictions, officials will probably continue to limit residential movement throughout much of the province; residents must remain in their homes, and only one person per household is allowed outside every three days to purchase essential goods. In low-risk areas, households must continue to designate one person to buy essentials, though residents are allowed to go to work. Gatherings remain prohibited. Private vehicle restrictions will likely remain in place for high-risk areas throughout the province, with exceptions made for shipments of essential goods. It is unclear how long the transport and movement restrictions will remain in effect; however, such measures will continue to prompt significant transport, business, and supply chain disruptions in central Hubei, and possibly in adjacent areas. The further relaxation of the measures will depend on the intensity and duration of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Several countries are maintaining warnings or advisories against travel to Wuhan and surrounding areas of Hubei Province. Various countries have also evacuated their citizens from Wuhan; additional evacuations may occur in the coming days, though the operations require permission and coordination with Chinese officials.

Advice
Avoid travel to Hubei Province until authorities lift movement and transport restrictions. If operating in affected areas, register and maintain contact with your diplomatic mission. Follow all official instructions and remain polite and nonconfrontational if questioned by security personnel. Avoid crowded areas as a precaution. Closely monitor official announcements on any additional movement restrictions. Confirm travel reservations in and around Hubei Province. Stock up on essential supplies whenever possible.

Use basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.