Over 1.7M locked down in Chinese province



The Manila Times


Asia And Oceania

BEIJING: More than 1.7 million people are under lockdown in China’s eastern Anhui province as authorities there reported nearly 300 new coronavirus cases on Monday, the latest in a string of outbreaks testing Beijing’s no-tolerance approach to Covid-19. The East Asian country is the last major economy following a strict zero-Covid strategy, responding to all cases with strict isolation orders and tough mass-testing drives. The outbreak in Anhui — where officials first found hundreds of cases last week — comes as the Chinese economy begins to rebound from a months-long lockdown in top finance hub Shanghai and disruptive coronavirus restrictions in the capital Beijing. Two counties in the province, Sixian and Lingbi, announced lockdowns last week, with more than 1.7 million residents only permitted to leave their homes if they are getting tested. Footage from state broadcaster China Central Television showed empty streets in Sixian over the weekend and people lining up for their sixth round of mass testing in recent days. The province reported 287 new infections on Monday, including 258 people with no symptoms, according to China’s National Health Commission, bringing the total number of cases found to just over 1,000. In a statement published by the provincial government on Monday, Anhui Gov. Wang Qingxian urged local authorities to “seize every minute and earnestly implement quick screening,” as well as rapid quarantine and reporting of cases. Neighboring Jiangsu province also reported 56 new local infections across four cities on Monday. While cases remain low in view of China’s vast population, officials insist the zero-Covid policy was necessary to prevent a health care calamity, pointing to unevenly distributed medical resources and low vaccination rates among the elderly. But the strategy has hammered the world’s second-largest economy and heavy-handed enforcement has triggered rare protests in the tightly controlled country. China’s international isolation has also prompted some foreign businesses and families with the financial means to make exit plans. National authorities announced a reduced quarantine requirement for international arrivals last month, rallying most Asian markets as investors hoped the move could provide a boost for Beijing’s Covid-battered economy. But health official Lei Zhenglong has insisted the new quarantine policy was “absolutely not a loosening of [Covid-19] prevention and control.”