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New Covid outbreaks have locked millions in China

#Covid #outbreaks #locked #millions #China

Ten million people were locked down in China on Wednesday, as businesses in a major tourist city were forced to close their doors and new clusters sparked fears of a return to blanket restrictions.

Health officials reported over 300 infections on Wednesday, with clusters found in the historic northern city of Xi’an – home of the Terracotta Army – as well as the country’s largest city, Shanghai.

The new cases and the official response to them have fueled fears that China could return to the tight restrictions seen earlier this year, when Beijing’s strict zero-Covid policy saw tens of millions locked down for weeks.

In Shanghai, some residents took to social media on Tuesday to say they had received government food rations, a throwback to the month-long confinement in the spring.

“Let me tell you a scary story, Putuo district is shipping vegetables again,” read a resident’s viral WeChat post.

“I’m so nervous, the epidemic has ruined my youth. I’m about to go crazy,” another Shanghai Weibo user posted.

Officials launched a new round of mass testing in over half of the city’s boroughs after cases have recovered since the weekend, and closed all karaoke bars on Wednesday after some infections were linked to six such venues.

And Xi’an – a historic city of 13 million that suffered a month-long lockdown late last year – was placed back under “temporary control measures” after 29 infections were detected since Saturday, mostly among garbage recycling workers.

Public entertainment venues such as pubs, internet cafes and karaoke bars would close their doors from midnight on Wednesday, the city government said in a statement.

State media showed images of Xi’an residents queuing for tests after midnight on Tuesday, while stressing that the city was not under lockdown.

Officials have blamed the city’s outbreak on the BA.5.2 subline of the Omicron variant, which is more transmissible and immune-preventable.

“The positive infections are all the BA.5.2 branch of the Omicron variant, and the epidemiological tracing work is still ongoing,” Xi’an health official Ma Chaofeng said at a briefing.

The new outbreaks pose a renewed challenge to President Xi Jinping, who last week reiterated his commitment to zero Covid despite the rising economic cost.

Japan’s bank Nomura has estimated that at least 114.8 million people are on full or partial lockdown across the country as of Monday, a sharp increase from last week’s 66.7 million.

More than 1,000 infections have been reported in central Anhui Province since last week, with dozens of them spreading to neighboring Shanghai’s Jiangsu Province, threatening the Yangtze River Delta’s core manufacturing region.

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#Covid #outbreaks #locked #millions #China

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