China lockdown: Worst Covid outbreak in two years forces Shenzhen shutdown

Financial city under lockdown after 60 new Covid cases reported on Sunday

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Monday 14 March 2022 15:04
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<p>A man checks his phone outside closed shops in Huaqiangbei </p>

A man checks his phone outside closed shops in Huaqiangbei

China has placed the entire 17.5-million population of the tech hub of Shenzhen under lockdown as authorities scramble to contain a severe Covid-19 outbreak despite the country’s “zero tolerance” policy.

The financial city, which borders Hong Kong, the other metropolis battling an unprecedented virus surge, was put under lockdown on Sunday after 60 new Covid cases were reported.

All businesses, except those that supply necessary items such as food and fuel, have been asked to shut while residents have been asked to undergo three rounds of testing. Officials have suspended public transport and urged people to work from home this week.

The Chinese city of Changchun, with nine million residents, was placed under a strict lockdown last Friday, while restrictions were tightened in multiple provinces in line with Beijing’s zero-tolerance policy of containing the spread of Covid.

Driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant of the virus, China has reported more cases of local transmissions in 2022 compared to last year. Mainland China on Sunday reported 1,337 new domestically transmitted cases with confirmed symptoms.

The Asian giant does not classify asymptomatic infections as confirmed Covid cases.

In the past week, new Covid infections have been reported in some of China’s most populous cities such as the capital Beijing and Shanghai, along with Guangdong, Jiangsu, Shandong and Zhejiang provinces.

The northeastern province of Jilin recorded more than 1,000 new cases for the second day in a row, prompting authorities to ban residents leaving their cities without police permission.

China’s mainland is seeing a widespread surge of new infections across its main cities

The surge in cases comes soon after the conclusion of the Winter Olympics and is alarming for China, which has been relentless in its attempts to prevent the spread of the virus through some of the toughest restrictions.

According to reports, at least 26 officials in three provinces were dismissed due to their handling of local outbreaks.

For the first time since the onset of the pandemic, the country’s National Health Commission (NHC) on Friday approved Covid rapid antigen tests for public use.

Zhang Wenhong, an infectious disease expert at a hospital affiliated with Shanghai’s Fudan University, noted in an essay for Caixin, that the numbers for the mainland were still in the early stages of an “exponential rise”.

“But if our country opens up quickly now, it will cause a large number of infections in people in a short period of time,” Mr Zhang wrote.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam ruled out tightening social-distancing restrictions as the China-ruled metropolis recorded 26,908 new infections and 249 deaths on Monday.

“The government has to be very careful before tightening social-distancing measures further... with the need to consider the mental health of citizens,” she said at a daily briefing.

Gatherings of more than two people are banned and most venues, including schools, are already shut in Hong Kong.

With agency inputs

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