Millions of Chinese again in Covid lockdown
The megacity of Chengdu has announced the shutdown after a scorching heat wave and repeated power outages. Mass shutdowns also occurred in Chongqing and Shenzhen. Web user who had predicted the restrictions at the beginning of the week was arrested for "creating unrest".
Rome (AsiaNews) - Millions of Chinese are again on lockdown over Covid-19. Authorities in Chengdu have ordered residents to remain quarantined at home from the first of September: mass swabbing will be carried out until the fourth of September in the Sichuan capital. One person per household can buy food and basic necessities every day with a negative test in the previous 24 hours.
The healthcare measures involve the closure of the city of over 20 million inhabitants. This is the largest lockdown since the one in Shanghai in April, when the megacity was placed under full quarantine for two months.
However, it is not yet clear whether the local authorities will lift the restrictions after four September. Shanghai had extended the lockdown several times because the authorities could not control the spread of the virus. In the face of criticism, China's rulers avoid mentioning 'lockdown' in official announcements, instead suggesting that people 'stay home'.
More than 70 per cent of flights at Chengdu airports were cancelled after the announcement of the lockdown. Yesterday there were more than 2,000 new infections in China: 137 are in Chengdu.
In the last few days, the increase in infections has worried the local population. On 29 August, a web user, 'Tropical Rainforest', had warned of the possibility of a lockdown; the Chinese blogosphere then shared the message, causing a large influx of people to go to supermarkets to do their shopping. The Chengdu police detained the netizen for 15 days; the charge against him is that he 'caused panic among residents' with his post and 'created problems for epidemic control and prevention'. According to the local government, there was no need to stockpile food and basic necessities.
In Chongqing, another megalopolis in southwest China, more than 10 million people were forced to undergo swab tests during the late August heat wave. Many residents lined up for the tests at midnight to avoid the heat. The temperature in southwest China hit record highs this summer and Chongqing recorded a high of 45 degrees Celsius for the first time.
The long heat wave and drought in southwest China have caused severe power shortages due to low water levels in hydroelectric dams and the use of air conditioners. Authorities have imposed limits on the use of electricity in factories to ensure supplies to households. The restrictions have forced many factories to suspend operations in the region.
In Shenzhen, the economic hub of southern China, the government intensified sanitary measures due to the increasing number of infections. The city authorities closed exhibition halls and cancelled or postponed several exhibitions and trade fairs. Companies complained that they were only notified a few hours before the fairs opened, resulting in huge losses.
Despite the harsh impact on the economy, the Chinese government is not giving up on the 'zero-Covid' policy advocated by Xi Jinping. The Politburo, the supreme decision-making body of the Chinese Communist Party, has hinted that the annual growth target of 5.5% will not be achieved. However, the leadership continues to censor speeches criticising the regime's health line before the 20th Party Congress.