Shenzhen imposes a lockdown and Shanghai restricts nonessential travel as China’s new cases jump

Source: NY Times, The Business Times, Bloomberg
Date: 13th March 2022

Two of China’s largest cities, Shenzhen and Shanghai, imposed stringent restrictions on Sunday on the movements of their residents, as a coronavirus outbreak continued to spread across much of mainland China.

While China still has far fewer cases than most countries, the daily count of known infections has accelerated rapidly.

Shenzhen, a city bordering Hong Kong that is the hub of China’s tech sector and electronics manufacturing industries, announced on Sunday night a lockdown for the next seven days. All nonessential workers must stay home, adults must undergo three P.C.R. tests in the coming days, and buses and subway trains are being halted. Supermarkets, farmers’ markets, pharmacies, medical institutions and express delivery services will be allowed to stay open.

A lockdown in Shenzhen might further disrupt global supply chains because Shenzhen has one of the world’s largest ports. An outbreak in Shenzhen in late spring of last year held up port operations and caused a steep spike in global shipping rates that helped drive up prices for imported goods in the United States and elsewhere.

China has tried to keep ports running during outbreaks since then by requiring many port workers to live at the docks for weeks at a time. The municipal lockdown order on Sunday evening did not specifically exempt port workers, but port management companies have argued in the past that their workers are essential.

Shenzhen and Shanghai both barred their residents over the weekend from leaving either city unless clearly necessary, and even then, only with a negative result from a P.C.R. test. Shanghai also halted intercity bus service, but has not ordered a citywide lockdown.

Shenzhen had tightened prevention and control measures in February, including steps to prevent truck drivers from bringing infections into mainland China from Hong Kong, where there is an enormous outbreak and deaths have surged. Despite those efforts, many users of Weibo, the Chinese social media network, faulted Hong Kong for the recent outbreak in Shenzhen, because the city has not implemented the kind of lockdown measures seen in mainland China. Beijing reported seven cases on Sunday, only one of which was asymptomatic.

The most severe outbreaks in mainland China right now are in towns and cities in the northeastern province of Jilin, which borders North Korea and Russia. Two mayors were dismissed in the province on Saturday, in hard-hit Jilin City and in the Jiutai district of the city of Changchun.

Nearly half of the cases across China that were announced on Sunday involved people who did not initially show symptoms. China has a very high rate of vaccination, except among the elderly. China has attributed the high number of asymptomatic cases to the prevalence of the highly contagious Omicron variant. A few cases of the Delta variant have also been detected near China’s borders in recent weeks.

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