China has put 17 million people in the southern tech hub of Shenzhen in lockdown as the country reported more than 3,100 daily local Covid-19 cases on Sunday, double the previous day. The financial hub of Shanghai is also under partial lockdown.
Most of the new local cases came from the northeastern province of Jilin, which logged 2,156 infections. The lockdown in Shenzhen was announced by the local government on Sunday after the city reported 66 new coronavirus cases.
As China is scrambling to address its most severe domestic Covid-19 outbreak in nearly two years, soaring new cases forced the country to tweak its zero-Covid policy by allowing rapid antigen tests (RATs) for public use. Sunday’s surge follows 1500 new cases on Saturday and 1100 new cases on Friday.
In the capital Beijing, authorities have urged the locals to cancel all unnecessary travel and incoming travellers must not take part in group meals or other gatherings for the first seven days after entering the city. The financial hub of Shanghai and the port city of Qingdao in Shandong province are also facing serious local outbreaks.
Residents in both cities have been urged to cancel all unnecessary travel, and all inbound and outbound travellers are required to present negative nucleic acid test results taken within 48 hours.
According to media reports on Sunday, the city of Jilin has been partially locked down, with hundreds of neighbourhoods sealed up. The neighbouring city of Changchun, an industrial base of nine million people, was locked down on Friday.
As almost half-a-dozen Chinese provinces battle clusters of the Omicron and Delta variants, there are clear signs of fatigue as reports of laxity in COVID management by authorities appear.
Also, officials appear to be increasingly urging for more targeted measures to contain the virus amid warnings by economists about the side-effects of harsher clampdowns on the economy.
The National Health Commission on Friday approved Covid-19 rapid antigen tests for public use, in a deviation from strict PCR tests by health authorities which need a lot more logistics arrangement in case of outbreaks, however, nucleic acid tests will continue to be the main method of testing.