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More Cities Go Under Lockdown as China Reports 1,456 ‘High’ and ‘Medium-risk’ Zones

Chinese authorities keep up disastrous 'zero-COVID' policy despite massive stress on populace
A native of New York, Alina has a Bachelors degree in Corporate Communications from Baruch College and writes about human rights' related issues, politics, tech and society.
Published: July 27, 2022
A health worker sits next to a block of ice to cool off as she prepares to test residents for COVID-19 at a collection site in Nanchang, located in China's central province of Jiangxi on July 21, 2022. (Image: by STR/AFP via Getty Images)

At least 15 provinces in mainland China have reported an alarming rise in new COVID-19 infections, with over 6,000 cases reported on July 24. 

Among them, 308 were in Gansu — an arid province in the northwest — followed by 210 in Guangxi, which is located at the southern border with Vietnam. According to local reports, as of 1:00 p.m. local time, more than 1,456 “high-and medium-risk areas” have been declared across these regions. 

Per the Chinese authorities’ admitted statistics, Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu Province, has the largest concentration of recent COVID-19 infections, with around 2,000 cases reported since July 8. As of July 25, 215 areas in the city were deemed “high-risk,” while 127 were considered “medium-risk.” 

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As has been in other parts of China, Lanzhou residents are subject to mass nucleic acid testing and movement curbs. According to the official website of the Gansu Provincial Health and Health Commission, Lanzhou city added 119 new locally transmitted cases on July 24. 

According to official government data, 115,899 close contacts and 6,473 asymptomatic infections were reported across the country. 

Chinese residents seen queuing up for nucleic acid testing in various cities across the country. (Video: via 在野說/YouTube)

More lockdowns

Beihai, located on the Gulf of Tonkin coast, has become another infection hub — reporting over 1,700 new infections as of July 24. On that same day, the Beihai authorities implemented a 3-day period of intensified “management and control” to slow the spread of the virus in the districts of Haicheng and Yinhai. 

During the confinement period, many public facilities — including supermarkets, gyms and all entertainment venues — were closed. As of July 25, authorities also implemented heavy restrictions on residents’ movements and declared 314 high-risk areas and 37 medium-risk areas in Beihai.

Meanwhile, Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province in southwestern China, reported 37 locally transmitted cases — bringing the city’s total tally to 152. Authorities added that the bulk of the cases appeared to be of the Omicron variant strain BA.2.38, and declared 58 high-risk areas and 72 medium-risk areas in Chengdu. 

According to the state-run Beijing Daily, as of July 25, there were 837 high-risk areas and 619 medium-risk areas enacted across the country — out of which, 345 are located in Gansu, 315 in Guangxi, 59 in Anhui, 47 in Sichuan, 28 in Guangdong, 12 in Tianjin, 11 in Jiangxi, 6 in Shanghai, 4 in Chongqing, 3 in Henan, 2 Jilin, 2 in Beijing, 2 in Xinjiang and 1 in Shandong. 

‘A waste of money and effort’

With Lanzhou seeing most of its districts locked down, netizens have begun to draw comparisons between the restrictions there and those in Shanghai this spring. Many of the nearly 26 million people residing in the financial and commercial hub were locked down for over two months from mid-March to early-June. 

During this time, many tragic and violent events were reported as some died while awaiting medical attention outside hospitals for anything other than COVID, and others were seen jumping off rooftops as they reached their breaking points or ran out of food and essentials during the prolonged lockdowns.

A typical online post complaining about the zero-COVID lockdown in Lanzhou reads: “All this torment for nothing! A waste of money and effort!”

Nearly 15,000 people quarantined in Lanzhou 

According to Lanzhou authorities, the local spread began around July 8 — with positive infections multiplying daily to reach nearly 2,000 as of July 24. Among them, 1,721 were registered in Lanzhou’s district of Chengguan. Mainland outlet Sina reported that 199 quarantine camps with a total capacity of 19,915 rooms have been opened in the city — with an estimated 14,685 people currently residing in them. 

In one video posted on social media, a man in Lanzhou exclaims at the emptiness of a normally bustling commercial district. The Lanzhou West Station “is dead silent, it’s like the city has become a ghost town.” 

Lanzhou lies on the historical Silk Road and is one of the westernmost major cities in China, with over 4 million people in its administrative area. It contains important mining industries and hosts one of China’s largest oil refineries.

From July 7 to the 24th, over 10,000 “abnormal” passengers were identified and placed under various forms of “control” at train stations in Lanzhou.

Forced to sleep on the streets and unable to seek medical attention

In a YouTube video posted on July 26, Lanzhou citizens can be seen queuing up for nucleic acid testing in strong winds and heavy rain. Many residents, distressed by the long wait times and fearful that they will be locked in or out of their homes, have opted to camp out on the streets. One woman can be heard to say, “I just went home to find my place locked, so I had to buy a quilt at the supermarket as I have no choice but to sleep on the street!”

As with the situation in Shanghai this spring, many in Lanzhou are cut off from medical attention due to the zero-COVID lockdowns.

One man in a video can be heard saying, “[the authorities] won’t let me go to the hospital even though I made a doctor’s appointment in advance.” 

Meanwhile, food prices in Lanzhou have also skyrocketed, with residents saying vegetables have now become “luxury goods.” One netizen noted that the price of groceries are virtually changing by the hour, and many can only afford to buy packets of instant noodles to get by.

Netizens react 

As more lockdowns are imposed, frustrated residents have taken to social media to voice their opinions on the far-reaching policies. 

“Zero-COVID really makes us a model country, unique in the entire world,” a sarcastic post reads.

Others are more direct in voicing their frustration:

“Chinese people’s patriotism is really something to behold. The city is locked down, nucleic acid tests are a daily requirement, you can’t go to the hospital to see the doctor, and you can be locked out of your home if you go out at the wrong time. Yet everyone seems to think this is normal, have they never questioned whether there’s something wrong with the government’s measures for controlling the pandemic?” 

“You can’t make a meal out of democracy, but a government without accountability can make you go hungry at any time,” another person wrote. 

One post takes a jab at the economic disruptions caused by Beijing’s policies. “We’re the happiest country on earth for sure, in the future none of us will have to work.”

Another comment encourages people to see the causes of their predicament: “It’s the same no matter how much money you have, there’s no covering up this disaster. The only way out is to find the truth.”

Li Muzi and Leo Timm contributed to this report.