Ex-prison inmate infected with coronavirus travels from Wuhan to Beijing

Mandy Zuo

Chinese authorities are investigating how a woman confirmed as having the coronavirus was able to travel to Beijing on Saturday after being released from prison in Wuhan, the city at the centre of the outbreak and which has been under total lockdown for more than a month.

According to the Beijing Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the woman – which it identified only by her surname Huang – was diagnosed with Covid-19 on Monday, but had been known to have had a fever and a sore throat since last week.

A source from Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, said the patient was Huang Dengying, a 61-year-old former official in Xuanen county who was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2013 for taking bribes, but released early on February 17.

Huang served her time at Wuhan Women’s Prison, where 279 coronavirus cases have been confirmed and whose head, Zhou Yukun, was sacked for negligence in his handling of the outbreak, said the person, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the case.

The Hubei provincial government has launched an investigation into the case.

Meanwhile, a team of officials from various central government ministries, including the police and procuratorate, was sent to Hubei on Thursday to launch its own investigation.

According to the disease control centre, Huang’s family drove from Beijing to Wuhan to pick her up after she was released.

On their arrival back in the capital on Saturday morning they reported their travel history to the authorities and were put into quarantine that night.

A report by Caixin reported a relative as saying that the prison had asked them to take Huang home despite the lockdown but had not mentioned she had had a fever.

“They kept asking us to take her back,” the person said. “But they covered up what was actually happening in the prison. I wasn’t aware how big a risk it was to bring her home.”

The relative said the family only learned about the outbreak of the virus inside the prison while listening to the news on their way home.

“Normally the prison should keep an eye on each person, and then seek help from hospitals if needed, right?”

According to other Chinese media reports, at least five people have been released from prisons in Wuhan since it was placed on lockdown on January 23.

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