China locks down 21 million in Chengdu in Covid-19 outbreak

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The southwestern Chinese metropolis of Chengdu announced a lockdown of its 21.2 million residents as it launched four days of citywide Covid-19testing, as some of the country’s most populous and economically important cities battle outbreaks.

Residents of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, were ordered to stay home from 6 p.m. on Thursday, with households allowed to send one person per day to shop for necessities, the city gov-ernment said in a statement.

Chengdu, which reported 157 domestically transmitted infections on Wednesday, is the largest Chinese city to be locked down since Shanghai in April and May. It remained unclear whether the lockdown would be lifted after the mass testing ends on Sunday.

Other major cities including Shenzhen in the south and Dalian in the northeast have also stepped up COVID restrictions this week, ranging from work-from-home requirements to the closure of entertainment businesses in some districts.

The moves curtail the activities of tens of millions of people, intensifying the challenges for China to minimise the economic impact of a “dynamic-zero” COVID policy that has kept China’s borders mostly shut to international visitors and make it an outlier as other countries try to live with the coronavirus.

Most of the curbs are intended to last a few days for now, although two provincial cities in northern China have extended curbs slightly beyond initial promises.

Chengdu’s lockdown sparked panic buying of essentials among residents. “I am waiting in a very long queue to get in the grocery near my home,” 28-year-old engineer Kya Zhang said, adding that she was worried about access to fresh food if the lock-down is extended.

Hwabao Trust economist Nie Wen said that be-cause Chengdu acted quickly to lock down, it was unlikely to see a repeat of Shanghai’s two-month ordeal.

Non-essential employees in Chengdu were asked to work from home and residents were urged not to leave the city unless needed. Residents who must leave their residential compounds for hospital visits or other special needs must obtain approval from neighbourhood staffers.

Industrial firms engaged in important manufac-turing and able to manage on closed campuses were exempted from work-from-home requirements.

Sweden’s Volvo Cars said it would temporarily close its Chengdu plant. Flights to and from Chengdu were dramatically curtailed, according to Flight Master data. At 10 a.m. local time (0200 GMT) on Thursday, it showed 398 flights had been cancelled at Shuangliu Airport in Chengdu, with a cancellation rate of 62%. At Chengdu’s Tianfu Airport, 79%, or 725 flights, were cancelled.—Reuters

 

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