China tightens Covid restrictions in big cities as cases climb

  • China
  • Wednesday, 23 Nov 2022

Security personnel guard the entrance to a residential area under lockdown due to Covid-19 restrictions in Beijing on Nov 22, 2022. - AFP

BEIJING (Bloomberg): China is seeing near-record numbers of Covid cases, spurring major cities from Beijing to Shanghai to revert to broad restrictions on people’s movements and mass testing exercises to contain swelling outbreaks.

There were 28,183 new infections recorded nationwide for Tuesday (Nov 22), up from 27,307 on Monday and just shy of the record 28,973 reached in April when Shanghai locked down amid an out-of-control case surge.

The spike in infections comes at a pivotal moment for China, with top leaders’ directions for a more targeted approach to containing Covid spurring confusion and backtracking on the ground.

After initially easing off on testing and movement restrictions -- in line with a new 20-point virus playbook issued by Beijing -- officials in some places are again imposing mass testing orders and lockdowns, as they strive to meet the overriding objective of suppressing Covid.

While authorities are careful to steer clear of city-wide lockdown orders, like those seen in Shanghai earlier this year and more recently in the southwestern megacity of Chengdu, a growing web of restrictions means that a total of 48 Chinese cities are subject to some form of district-level or widespread movement curbs, according to data compiled by Nomura Holdings Inc.

Meanwhile, chaos has returned to China’s biggest iPhone factory, with workers at the Foxconn Technology Group plant in Zhengzhou, eastern China, clashing with security personnel in the early hours of Wednesday amid anger at tough virus restrictions there.

The manufacturing site -- known as ‘iPhone City’ for its scale -- has been in a so-called closed-loop for weeks after Covid spread in the surrounding metropolis and made its way into the plant.

In the latest restrictive moves, Shanghai banned new arrivals into the city from public venues for five days starting from Thursday, as the financial center seeks to insulate itself from the wider Covid surge.

People traveling into Shanghai, which reported 68 cases for Tuesday, will be barred from places including restaurants, pubs, shopping malls, supermarkets and wet markets, as well as internet cafes and other entertainment venues for those five days, the local government said late Tuesday.

In Beijing, which reported the nation’s first Covid deaths in almost six months over the weekend, residents will be required to provide a negative PCR test result taken within the previous 48 hours before being allowed to enter public venues or catch a bus from Thursday.

Schools across swathes of the capital, which recorded 1,476 infections for Tuesday, have been shuttered, with students told to study from home.

Shenzhen will also require residents to provide negative PCR results within the past 48 hours before taking public transportation or entering public venues from Thursday.

Areas of Guangzhou, home to the biggest outbreak in China, remain locked down. The Haizhu district, which started levying Covid curbs a month ago, extended its lockdown in parts late Tuesday. Restrictions in Chongqing mean the city is largely in lockdown, despite no sweeping order or directive.

Elsewhere, major cities are starting to roll out mass testing once again. Tianjin ordered two rounds of testing for its 14 million residents on Friday and Saturday, citing a growing outbreak. The city, which is close to Beijing, reported 245 new cases, tripling from a week ago.

Chengdu, which started emerging from lockdown in mid-September, is also mass testing in some areas this week.

The measures show the difficulty of applying a lighter-touch, more targeted approach to Covid when the aim is till to suppress outbreaks. More contagious Omicron variants have made the Covid Zero playbook deployed successfully in China during the initial virus outbreak in Wuhan virtually untenable without sweeping restrictions.

The return of tighter curbs has punctured optimism in financial markets after top leaders signaled the more targeted Covid approach over a week ago.

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China , covid-19 , lockdown


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