On Sunday, China placed all 17 million people of one of its largest cities under lockdown, as the number of virus infections nationally jumped to about 3,400, raising concerns about the ‘zero-Covid’ approach’s resiliency in the face of the country’s worst outbreak in two years.Shenzhen, China’s southern tech capital, has ordered all citizens to stay at home as the city battles an Omicron flare-up connected to virus-ravaged Hong Kong.According to a city government notice, the lockout and suspension of public transportation will extend until March 20, and three rounds of mass testing will be conducted.The move is a continuation of a previous lockdown in the city’s central business sector.On Sunday, Shenzhen recorded 66 new illnesses, a fraction of the 32,430 confirmed in Hong Kong the same day.”It might easily become large-scale community transmission if preventive and control are not improved in a timely and decisive manner,” Shenzhen health official Lin Hancheng said during a briefing.As 18 provinces combat clusters of the Omicron and Delta strains, authorities in Shanghai have closed schools and shut down multiple northeastern cities in response to the outbreak.When clusters of the virus emerged in China in late 2019, the country implemented a stringent ‘zero-Covid’ policy that included quick lockdowns, travel restrictions, and mass testing.However, the most recent outbreak, which is being fueled by the highly transmissible Omicron form and an increase in asymptomatic cases, is putting that strategy to the test.Shanghai has escaped a citywide stay-at-home order so far, but individual housing compounds have been closed down as the megacity ramps up attempts to limit infections and examine suspected close contacts.Jilin, the northeastern city in the epicenter of the outbreak, was partially shut down on Saturday, and residents of Yanji, a nearly 700,000-strong metropolitan area bordering North Korea, were also confined to their homes on Sunday.Local authorities, according to Zhang Yan of the Jilin health commission, have been slow to respond.”There is a lack of understanding of the Omicron variant’s properties… and judgment has been incorrect,” he stated during a press conference on Sunday.Changchun, a nine-million-person industrial center nearby, was shut down on Friday, and at least three more small cities have been shut down since March 1.According to state media, the mayor of Jilin and the chairman of the Changchun health commission were fired on Saturday, indicating that local authorities are under pressure to contain virus clusters.Covid-zero?Officials are increasingly proposing gentler and more focused measures, while experts warn that tougher restrictions are harming the economy.Authorities notified some residents in Shanghai housing compounds that the restrictions would be in place for two days. Close-contact worries have also forced the closure of some schools, companies, restaurants, and shopping malls.Authorities also announced on Sunday that anyone who has not undergone a negative test in the previous 48 hours is not allowed to leave or enter Shanghai.Serena Li, a Shanghai resident, told AFP, “I have friends who I hung out with a few days ago but were suddenly quarantined recently.”People waited in long lineups outside hospitals to get examined.”There is no other option. We must unquestionably follow the government’s instructions “Zhang, a data analytics employee stated.Residents in Shenzhen told AFP on Sunday that they were concerned about the outbreak’s recurrence and the drastic measures that might be taken to combat it.”It’s the worst since 2020,” remarked a local named Zhang.”The closures are too abrupt; my buddy awoke the next morning to find her building had been sealed without warning overnight. Her laptop had to be mailed to her by her boss.”The city, which has a substantial migrant worker population, shares a land border crossing with Hong Kong, where the caseload has risen dramatically in recent weeks, frightening Beijing officials.As the Omicron form cuts through Hong Kong’s older population, where vaccine reluctance is rampant, the city has one of the highest fatality rates from the virus in the world.As the number of cases rises, China’s National Health Commission stated on Friday that residents purchase fast antigen tests online or at clinics for “self-testing.”Even though nucleic acid tests will continue to be the primary method of testing, the move shows China is predicting that official efforts to suppress the virus would be ineffective.
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