Off the Epicenter: COVID-19 Quarantine Controls and Employment, Education, and Health Impacts in Rural Communities

In late January 2020, China’s government initiated its first aggressive measures to combat COVID-19 by forbidding individuals from leaving their homes, radically limiting public transportation, cancelling or postponing large public events, and closing schools across the country. The rollout of these measures coincided with China’s Lunar New Year holiday, during which more than 280 million people had returned from their places of work to their home villages in rural areas. The disease control policies remained in place until late February and early March, when they were gradually loosened to allow for more free movement of people. Among those that were allowed to move again were the hundreds of millions of migrant workers who originally (before the COVID-19 outbreak) had expected to return to China’s urban and industrial centers to continue working in the nation’s factories, construction sites and service sector.