China imposes lockdown on 3.5 million people
The southwestern Chinese border city of Baise has ordered its roughly 3.5 million residents to stay at home and avoid non-essential travel from Monday to combat a surge in local Covid-19 infections. Between 70 and 99 cases were recorded over the past three days, according to media reports.
The flare-up in Baise, located some 100km (62 miles) from the country’s border with Vietnam in the Guangxi region, came after the city discovered its first local case on Friday. City officials said a traveler who had come home for the week-long Lunar New Year holiday had tested positive, AFP reported.
On Sunday, Baise Vice-Mayor Gu Junyan announced “citywide traffic controls” with “personnel control strictly enforced and no unnecessary movement of people,” the agency noted. He added that vehicles and people would not, “in principle,” be permitted to enter or leave the city.
Gu stated that residents of certain neighborhoods in smaller rural cities and counties that fall under Baise’s jurisdiction have also been placed under strict home quarantine, while others are not allowed to leave their districts. Authorities told AFP that mass testing of residents is underway.
According to Reuters, Pang Jun, deputy director of the regional health commission, told reporters that two individuals among the cases with confirmed symptoms were infected with the Omicron variant of coronavirus. Pang did not reveal what variants had infected the remaining people.
The lockdown follows national outbreak containment guidelines that include strict local lockdowns, mass testing, and contact-tracing apps to try and snuff out flare-ups as soon as cases are detected. The present effort comes amid the staging of the Winter Olympics, which run in Beijing until February 20, and the Chinese New Year holiday season.
Baise is the third city to be isolated in the past two months with authorities imposing similar measures in Xi’an, a northwestern city of 13 million people, in late December and Anyang, with five million people, in mid-January.
On Sunday, Wu Zunyou – a chief epidemiologist with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention – told the Global Times paper that the country would continue to use vaccines and “comprehensive measures” through its zero-tolerance policy to contain the pandemic.