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Investigation underway over ex-prisoner's Wuhan-Beijing trip

By CAO YIN | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2020-02-27 19:59
Fuhe Toll Station on the Daihuang Expressway in northern Wuhan, Hubei province, is closed, as the city has been put into lockdown because of the ongoing pneumonia outbreak. [Photo by Yuan Zheng/For China Daily]

Beijing has started investigating the case in which a recently released former prisoner was driven to Beijing from Wuhan in Central China's Hubei province, center of the novel coronavirus pneumonia outbreak, following inspections launched earlier by the central government and the province.

The Beijing discipline inspection commission and supervisory commission have set up a team to look into the high-profile case, Xiao Sa, director of the office of the supervision body of the city's leading group for the prevention and control of the epidemic, said at a news conference held by the municipal government on Thursday.

The investigation will focus on how the woman, surnamed Huang, entered the city and a residential community, despite body temperature checkpoints set up along the way to screen possible infection cases, and look for loopholes in the city's epidemic prevention and control work, Xiao added.

The capital's move came after a residential compound in Beijing's Dongcheng district reported a confirmed case on Monday. According to a notice issued by the community's residents' committee on Wednesday, the female patient came to Beijing from Wuhan on Saturday and had a fever in Wuhan since Feb 18. She was quarantined the day she arrived in Beijing, and three of her relatives also have been placed under quarantine and medical observation.

The Beijing Center for Disease Prevention and Control also said in a statement that Huang has had an intermittent fever for five days with throat discomfort since Feb 18 when she was in Wuhan. At 2 am on Saturday, she was driven to Beijing by family members and entered the residential compound after a body temperature check.

Huang's family members reported her fever to the local community committee after her arrival, and Huang was sent to a designated quarantine site on Saturday. The next day, Huang was sent to Puren Hospital in Dongcheng district for fever, and was confirmed with the infection on Monday, the center added.

The news quickly went viral on Chinese social media. The public questioned how a person could return to Beijing from Wuhan, which has been on lockdown since Jan 23.

In response to the questions, a joint inspection team led by the Ministry of Justice, Chinese top regulator for prisons, went to Wuhan to investigate the case on Wednesday. Another team guided by Hubei provincial disciplinary officials was established after Ying Yong, the provincial Party chief, said it is not to be tolerated that such a serous incident happened at a very critical moment in controlling the outbreak. Ying ordered the province to thoroughly investigate the case and respond in a timely manner to public concerns.

Caixin media reported on Thursday that Huang was a cashier from the water conservation bureau in Hubei's Xuan'an county , and she was given a 10-year imprisonment for embezzlement by the county's court in June 2013. After receiving commutations in 2017 and 2019 in Wuhan Women's Prison, Feb 18 this year was the date she could be released from the prison, the report said.

Later on Thursday, Huang's daughter was cited by Red Star News, a news outlet based in Southwest China's Sichuan province, saying she is busy with many concerns, and believes the joint investigation team will give a conclusion to the public.

On Wednesday, the Hubei prison administration staff said that prisoners would be released normally in line with the law after finishing their prison term, according to Beijing News. The newspaper also said that several inmates had been freed and left Wuhan in February.

According to Aidujingshi, the official WeChat account of the Public Security Bureau of Qichun county in Hubei, on Feb 11 a convicted felon was released from prison in Wuhan and sent by the police in Qichun.

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