China's major Covid challenge as millions plunged into lockdown

With the emergence of the Covid-19 virus nearing its third anniversary, China continues to take no chances with its spread in the community.

While the rest of the world has opened up and begun living with Covid-19, Beijing refuses to budge from its unwavering Covid-zero strategy.

As cases continue to flare with China struggling to control the highly-transmissible Omicron subvariants, millions more have been plunged into restrictions and lockdowns.

The eastern export and manufacturing hub Yiwu said on Thursday it would enter three days of "silent management", with most of its residents banned from leaving designated areas and some confined to their homes.

Yiwu's 1.9 million people joined millions of others across several cities whose movements are restricted largely to their residential compounds, unless they have to go out for matters such as Covid tests, grocery shopping or hospital visits.

Small numbers of tourists were allowed to leave Hainan on Tuesday. Source: Getty
Small numbers of tourists were allowed to leave Hainan on Tuesday. Source: Getty

Last week, the tourist hub of Sanya on the island province of Hainan was shut down due to a surge in cases, with 80,000 tourists stranded as flights were cancelled. On Thursday, the city said it had registered more than 4,000 cases since August 1.

Residents becoming 'angered' by ongoing uncertainty

One Shanghai resident in the city told Reuters holidaymakers fear a long stay trapped in the tourist hub.

"My emotions naturally range from complete denial and disbelief, to anger, sadness, and eventually hopelessness," he said.

The constant uncertainty facing the country's 1.4 billion population is certainly taking its toll, with President Xi Jinping facing a level of anger and resistance rarely seen in his nine-year tenure.

Mr Xi and authorities have urged residents to stay the course with the strategy, stressing China will find itself on the right side of history.

Authorities are now developing tailored methods to their lockdowns, which as been deemed as a softer approach.

Reducing people's unnecessary movement for a few days as soon as dozens of new cases emerge is a key practice of China's "dynamic Covid-zero" strategy.

The aim is to avoid turning efforts to halt an outbreak into the extended nightmares seen recently in Shanghai where the city's 26 million faced a daunting lockdown for several months earlier this year.

HAIKOU, CHINA - AUGUST 9, 2022 - Medical staff work on nucleic acid screening at an air film laboratory in Haikou, Hainan province, China, on Aug 9, 2022. The gas film laboratory has 5 sets of laboratories, which will be able to provide daily nucleic acid detection volume of 50,000 tubes in Haikou city, and effectively improve the capacity of nucleic acid detection in Haikou city. (Photo credit should read CFOTO/Future Publishing via Getty Images)
A staff member at a testing centre in Haikou on the same island as Hainan. Source: Getty

In China's western region of Xinjiang, three cities in the Aksu area from Thursday allowed employees to leave their homes for work while restricting everyone else to necessary movements only. It is not clear when the measures will be lifted.

Key districts in Xinjiang's capital Urumqi, meanwhile, have been in a five-day lockdown starting on Wednesday.

Ferry services from the gambling mecca of Macau were scrapped between the mega city of Shenzhen due to the virus surge.

On Thursday, China's daily case total stood at 1,993 for the previous 24 hours.

with Reuters

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