CM – China locks city of four million people due to COVID cases


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China closed a city with four million inhabitants on Tuesday and ordered them to only leave their homes in an emergency to eradicate a Covid cluster of just a few dozen confirmed cases. Beijing imposed tight border controls after the coronavirus was first discovered in China in late 2019, slowing the number of cases to a trickle and allowing the economy to rebound. But while the rest of the world opens up and tries to find ways to live with the virus, China has maintained a zero-covid approach with tough local bans on a handful of cases.

The new restrictions on Tuesday came as China reported 29 new domestic infections – including six in Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu Province in the country’s northwest. The most recent outbreak has been linked to the highly contagious Delta variant, with the number reaching 198 cases since Oct. 17. Thirty-nine were in Lanzhou. The city’s residents must now stay at home, authorities said in a statement, with “residents' » entry and exit « being tightly controlled and limited to basic care or medical treatment. Bus and taxi services in the city had already ceased, and state media said Tuesday that Lanzhou Station had suspended more than 70 trains, including major routes to Beijing and Xi’an. A representative from Southern Airlines told AFP that all flights from Beijing’s Daxing Airport to Lanzhou have been canceled for public safety reasons with no resumption date given. Health officials have warned that more infections could emerge as tests ramp up in the coming days to combat the outbreak, which has been linked to a group of domestic tourists who have traveled from Shanghai to several other provinces – tens of thousands have already been seen in northern China arranged by people at home. In Beijing – which reported three new cases on Tuesday – access to tourist attractions has been restricted and the prominent Lama Temple has been closed, while residents have been advised not to leave the capital unless necessary. About 23,000 residents of a residential complex in Changping District were ordered to stay indoors after nine cases were found there in the past few days, local news agency Beijing News reported. The community’s mahjong and chess rooms have been closed and residents have been urged to reduce large gatherings. The organizers indefinitely postponed a marathon on Sunday, where 30,000 runners were expected. Mass tests are underway in 11 provinces and authorities have suspended many inter-provincial tour groups. While the country’s case numbers are extremely low compared to other parts of the world, authorities are determined to eradicate the most recent outbreak with the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics in just over 100 days. As part of China’s strict enforcement of its zero-covid policy, those who are deemed to have failed to control Covid are often dismissed from office or punished. On Tuesday, the official Xinhua news agency reported that Ejin Banner’s party secretary in northern Inner Mongolia had been fired for « poor performance and implementation in disease prevention and control. » Hit by the latest wave, the city locked around 35,000 residents as of Monday. According to local media reports, around 10,000 tourists were also blocked in Ejin. Six other officers were fined for their « limp response » to the recent flare-up, state media reported, and an assistant director of the local police bureau was dismissed. Beijing police have opened three criminal investigations into suspected Covid security breaches, the deputy director of the city’s public security bureau said on Sunday.

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