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Southern China’s Dongguan City Under Lockdown Following COVID-19 Outbreak

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Published: December 20, 2021
This photo taken on May 1, 2020 shows staff wearing hazmat suits as a precaution against the COVID-19 coronavirus waiting to check a truck at a customs checkpoint on the border with Russia at Suifenhe, in China's northeast Heilongjiang Province. (Image: STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Dongguan, a key Chinese manufacturing city, has been under lockdown ever since a few cases of COVID-19 were identified. The last time the city had experienced an outbreak of COVID-19 was in June. 

Dongguan is home to manufacturing plants of various top brands like Gillette and Samsung. Seventy-five percent of the city’s population is made up of migrant workers who are employed at the numerous factories. The first cases of the recent wave of infections were reported on Dec. 13 when eight individuals were diagnosed with COVID-19. On Dec. 15, four additional cases were reported from the township of Dalang.

City authorities have imposed strict traffic controls. Residents and visitors leaving the city must present negative COVID-19 test results obtained within the previous 48 hours. Those who come from high or medium-risk areas are required to quarantine for 14 days.

The restrictions on travel will affect millions of migrant workers who typically return home before the Lunar New Year on Feb. 1. Since Dongguan is closely located to other major cities like Hong Kong, Shenzhen, and Macao, city authorities are expected to be stricter when observing travel restrictions.

“Eight areas of Dalang township, including residential communities and industrial zones have been changed from the low-risk to medium-risk level,” Lai Shaoyu told reporters at a press briefing on Dec. 16. Lai Shaoyu is the deputy secretary-general of Dongguan’s city government.

Public transport, in-person educational classes, social gatherings, and recreational facilities have all been prohibited in Dalang. All entry and exit points now have checkpoints to monitor the movement of people in and out of the town. Residents of the township can only leave for essential and emergency reasons. 

In an interview with SCMP, one anonymous health official from the Guangdong province, where Dongguan is located, stated that infection numbers in the city were “in line” with estimates of the health department. 

“But it is too early to say that we’re safe. More rounds of testing need to be done in both Dongguan and Guangzhou… All doctors and nurses in Guangdong have been mobilized, or they’re on standby,” the official said.

According to Leung Chi-chiu, a respiratory medicine specialist based in Hong Kong, there is no evidence that community transmission of COVID-19 is taking place in Guangdong. However, he wants Dongguan officials to widen their search for infections to see whether such transmission is occurring.

The education department has instructed schools in the province to ask teachers and students not to visit high-risk places and border cities as well as to avoid holiday gatherings for the upcoming New Year and the Chinese Lunar New Year.