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Chinese Authorities Lock Down 21 Million Residents in Chengdu as ‘Zero-COVID’ Measures Continue

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: September 1, 2022
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A health worker gets a swab sample from a boy to be tested for Covid-19 at a swab collection site in Beijing on May 25, 2022. (Image: JADE GAO/AFP via Getty Images)

China’s megalopolis of Chengdu, located in the southwestern province of Sichuan, has been placed under lockdown after a new cluster of COVID-19 infections was detected. 

Authorities announced on Sept. 1 that the city’s 21.2 million residents would be subjected to four days of nucleic acid testing in efforts to quell further spread of the virus. Chengdu’s local government also said in a statement that all residents would be banned from leaving their homes after 6 p.m. — and only one person per household is allowed to leave each day to purchase foods and other necessities. 

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Chengdu, which is the capital of Sichuan, reported 157 domestically transmitted infections on Aug. 31, prompting officials to declare a citywide lockdown covering all business districts and residential zones. 

Though it remained unclear whether the restrictions would be lifted after mass testing is completed on Sept. 4, Chengdu’s pandemic curbs mark the largest restrictions since Shanghai’s lockdown that lasted for over two months in April and May. 

“I am waiting in a very long queue to get in the grocery near my home,” 28-year-old engineer Kya Zhang told CNBC, adding that she was worried about not having access to fresh produce if the lockdown is extended. Multiple cities in China have experienced false starts in resuming normal business operations after new infections are detected.

Major cities locked down

According to Capital Economics, 41 of China’s major cities, which are responsible for approximately 32 percent of the country’s GDP, have been subjected to updated pandemic restrictions after new outbreaks were reported — the highest number since April.

Other COVID restrictions, ranging from work-from-home requirements to the closure of entertainment venues, gyms and hotels, have been seen in the cities of Shenzhen, Dalian, Guangzhou, and Shenyang.

Bordering Hong Kong in China’s south is Shenzhen — a major technological and manufacturing hub. Authorities there announced a three-day lockdown of some residential districts on Aug. 29, and announced the shut down of the world’s biggest electronics market there.

Meanwhile, Dalian, which is home to nearly 7.5 million people, has also seen movement curbs and restrictions as authorities reported an uptick of 121 new positive cases. Dalian’s curtailments include daily mass testing for about half its residents, as well as a ban of all large gatherings.

​​In addition, the government of Shenyang — the most populous city in China’s northeastern province of Liaoning, postponed the start of in-person classes for primary and high school students — citing an uptick in new COVID infections. 

Although Guangzhou — a city of nearly 19 million people near Hong Kong — reported just five locally transmitted infections on Aug. 30, authorities there ordered certain areas in one district to shutter indoor entertainment venues and in-store dining for five days until Sept. 4. 

State media reports also added that Guangzhou’s local government ordered all kindergartens, primary, middle and high schools in the district to delay resuming in-person classes and halt offline sessions that have already begun. The city also announced reduced bus and subway services in several districts. 

Economy in shambles

Reeling from prolonged lockdowns, movement curbs and travel bans, experts have warned that in order for China to recuperate its national economy, it will need to boost local growth — which sank by 2.5 percent in the first half of 2022 compared to a year ago. 

China’s economy has also been hurting from banking, manufacturing and real estate crises that have affected millions of people, and severely cut consumer spending. 

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“For now, the resulting disruption appears modest, but the threat of damaging lockdowns is growing,” Julian Evans-Pritchard, senior China economist at Capital Economics, told the Guardian, adding that, “And even if they [lockdowns] are avoided, we expect growth to remain subdued going forward.”