Chengdu locks down 21 million people in fresh Covid outbreak

Chengdu locks down 21 million people in fresh Covid outbreak

About 21 million people in the Chinese city of Chengdu have gone into lockdown as authorities raced to snuff out a new Covid-19 outbreak.

A health worker taking a swab sample from a man in Chengdu. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

China is the last major economy wedded to a zero-Covid policy, stamping out virus flare-ups with snap shutdowns, mass testing and lengthy quarantines.

Chengdu, in the south-west, became the latest city to announce a shutdown, saying in an official notice that residents must “stay home in principle” from 6pm on Thursday to combat a new wave of infections.

Each household will be allowed to send one person out to buy groceries and essential goods per day, provided they have tested negative in the previous 24 hours, the notice said.

It said all residents would be tested for the virus between Thursday and Sunday, and urged them not to leave the city unless “absolutely necessary”.

“The current state of epidemic control is abnormal, complex and grim,” the announcement said, adding that the measures aimed to “decisively arrest the spread of the outbreak and guarantee the health of all citizens”.

Chengdu recorded 157 new local infections on Thursday, of which 51 displayed no symptoms, the city government said in a separate notice.

Children in at least 10 cities and provinces are facing disruptions to China’s new academic year as pandemic controls force schools to switch to measures including online learning, according to a news report on Thursday in state-affiliated media.

Xining, the capital of western Qinghai province and home to 2.5 million people, has ordered schools to conduct lessons online, rolled out a mass testing drive and told residents in its main urban area to work from home for three days.China’s southern hub of Shenzhen said new virus restrictions would come into force from 6pm on Thursday in its Nanshan district, which hosts the headquarters of tech giants Tencent and ZTE.

The district government said it had ordered entertainment venues including bars, cinemas and karaoke clubs to close, and started requiring residents to produce a recent negative Covid test to enter their housing compounds.

China has stuck to its zero-tolerance virus strategy despite disruptions from the fast-spreading Omicron variant and concern that the approach is stifling its post-pandemic economic recovery.

Last month, travellers in the southern island province of Hainan protested after more than 80,000 tourists were stranded in a resort city because of a Covid flare-up.

Social media videos from the eastern megacity of Shanghai showed panicked crowds fleeing an Ikea store and another building as officials tried to impose local lockdowns in response to two suspected cases.

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