The manufacturing hub of Guangzhou yesterday closed itself to most arrivals as China battles a major COVID-19 surge in its big eastern cities.
Shanghai has taken the brunt of the surge, with another 26,087 cases announced yesterday, only 914 of whom showed symptoms. The city of 26 million is under a tight lockdown, with many residents confined to their homes for up to three weeks.
No such lockdown has yet been announced for Guangzhou, a metropolis of 18 million northwest of Hong Kong that is home to many top companies and China’s busiest airport.
Only 27 cases were yesterday reported in the city.
However, primary and middle schools have switched to online lessons after an initial 23 local cases were detected last week.
An exhibition center was being converted into a makeshift hospital after authorities earlier said that they would begin citywide mass testing.
Only citizens with a “definite need” to leave Guangzhou can do so, and only if they test negative for the virus within 48 hours of departure, city spokesperson Chen Bin (陳斌) wrote on social media.
China has stuck to its “zero COVID” strategy of handling outbreaks with strict isolation and mass testing, despite complaints in Shanghai over shortages of food and medical services.
The government and the entirely state-controlled media are growing increasingly defensive about complaints over COVID-19 prevention measures, censoring online content and rebuking foreign critics.
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian (趙立堅) on Sunday said that China had “lodged solemn representations with the US,” after the US Department of State advised Americans to reconsider traveling to China due to “arbitrary enforcement” of local laws and COVID-19 restrictions, particularly in Hong Kong, Jilin Province and Shanghai.
US officials cited a risk of “parents and children being separated.”
China was “strongly dissatisfied with and firmly opposed to the US side’s groundless accusation against China’s epidemic response,” Zhao said.
Despite that, and indications that the hardline policy is being dictated by Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), China has rejected any notion that its response is political in nature.
Xi has demanded social stability above all else in the run-up to a key Chinese Communist Party congress later this year at which he is expected to bestow on himself an unprecedented third-term as party leader.
The English-language China Daily said that Shanghai’s measures are “far from perfect,” and pointed to the firing last week of three local officials for failing in their duties.
However, it said that should not become an “excuse to politicize the event and blame China.”
Despite the large number of cases, no new deaths have been reported in the Shanghai wave, possibly because the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 is less deadly than older variants.
City authorities also say they have secured daily supplies for residents, after complaints about deliveries of food and other necessities.
Residents have resorted to group buying of groceries, because they are not allowed to leave their buildings, with only partial success in obtaining needed items.
Beijing has seen relatively few restrictions, although the Erjiefang neighborhood, including the famed 798 Art District, has been cordoned off and classified as high risk after eight infections were reported there over the past two weeks.
China is facing one of its worst local outbreaks since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and is still mostly closed to international travel, even as most of the world has sought ways to live with the virus.
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