China locks up 17 million Shenzhen residents after 66 cases are reported

Authorities also said on Sunday that people could not leave or enter the city in the past 48 hours without a negative test.

Millions of people were locked up on Sunday across China, the country has recorded the highest rate of daily coronavirus cases in two years, but the “zero covid” policy is causing population fatigue and questions about its merits.

Due to a spike in the number of cases across the country, residential areas were cordoned off one by one in Shanghai, China’s most populous metropolis, along with schools, businesses, restaurants and shopping malls.

Authorities also said on Sunday that people could not leave or enter the city in the past 48 hours without a negative test.

66 new cases, 17 million incarcerated

In the tech hub of the south, Shenzhen, bordering Hong Kong, 17 million people were locked up on Sunday after 66 new cases were reported, along with entire cities in the northeast, as nearly 19 provinces fight local outbreaks caused by the Delta and Omicron. variants.

Yanji, a city of 700,000 inhabitants on the North Korean border, has been completely shut down. And the large city of Jilin, in the northeast, has been partially scrutinized with hundreds of districts, an official announced on Sunday.

Residents of Jilin, who have reported more than 500 cases of the Omicron variant, had completed their six rounds of mandatory drug testing, according to local authorities.

China, where the virus was first discovered in late 2019, has applied a zero-tolerance policy to the outbreak. It responds to epidemic outbreaks with local detentions, mass screening, population control through tracing applications, and national borders remain practically closed.

political imperative

But this record of daily cases caused by the Omicron variant undermines this approach.

“The emergency response mechanism is not robust enough in some areas, the understanding of the characteristics of the Omicron variant is insufficient (…) and the judgment was inaccurate,” admitted at a news conference by the Zhang Yan government, health officer of the province jilin.

The mayor of Jilin and the health official of Changchun were removed from office on Saturday, state media reported, as a sign of the political imperative imposed on local authorities to deal with outbreaks.

China has so far managed to keep the number of coronavirus cases very low thanks to the drastic measures, but the fatigue from this strict approach is increasing in the country.

Zero Covid?

Several officials are now calling for more targeted measures, and economists are warning that sweeping measures will hurt the country’s economy.

“It’s the worst (embarrassment, editor’s note) since 2020,” a Shenzhen resident named Zhang told AFP. “The closures are too sudden. My girlfriend woke up in the morning to find that her building was locked overnight without warning. Her boss had to send her laptop to her.”

Hong Kong, for its part, currently has one of the highest death rates in the world from the virus, with Omicron affecting the elderly population who are still reluctant to get vaccinated.

Thousands of expatriates have also left the city, mainly due to school closures and severe restrictions that have reduced any gathering or movement to almost zero.

Faced with mounting cases, China’s national health authority announced on Friday it would introduce the use of rapid antigen testing, which could indicate some form of easing of the Communist Party’s health policy.

Last week, a top Chinese scientist said the country should try to live with the virus, as other countries have done.

But the government does not rule out resorting to strict detentions.