Technology Group, the largest collector of Apple Inc. iPhones, said their factories in the Chinese production hub in Shenzhen again ran at full capacity on Monday after the city completed Covid-19 tests on all of its 17 million inhabitants.
But while Shenzhen returned to business as usual, several new cases in Jilin, Shanghai and other cities led to tighter restrictions, highlighting the challenge that China still faces in limiting its worst Covid-19 outbreak in two years.
Authorities in Shenzhen said the city’s coronavirus outbreak has largely been eradicated after three rounds of nucleic acid tests in one week. Public transport, factories and other businesses could all resume normal operations on Monday, the government said. The easing of restrictions came even though the city a day earlier had reported 33 new local infections.
The new approach from Shenzhen reflects the more targeted strategy adopted by China as the highly contagious Omicron variant spread across the country this month. While containment measures were eased in most of Shenzhen, there are still restrictions in some areas. The city said its more precise measures are aimed at “minimizing the impact of the Covid situation on economic and social development.” Restrictions will be tailored to each district, supply chain and business, officials said.
The move follows Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s speech last week to the standing committee of the ruling Politburo, acknowledging that the country’s zero-Covid strategy entails large costs. While the policy has helped keep China largely free of the virus over the past two years, shutdowns, factory closures and other measures pose a threat to global supply chains and economic growth.
On Monday, Jilin City in the northeastern province of the same name imposed a strict lockdown similar to those seen in Wuhan in early 2020 – when Covid-19 first broke out – and in the city of Xi’an this past winter, before the recent Omicron-powered wave.
With more than 1,500 of China’s 1,947 new locally transmitted cases reported Sunday, Jilin City began a so-called “static control” campaign. For four days from Monday, depending on location, residents must stay at home or inside their apartment complexes and only shop online or by phone. Millions in the province had already been ordered to stay home, but with a household member allowed to come out every other day to shop for the necessities.
Omicron is also spreading in Shanghai, though only 24 of its 758 locally transmitted cases recorded Sunday were symptomatic. China does not include asymptomatic cases in its new infections.
On Sunday, Shanghai Disney Resort said its properties in the city would close so far from Monday to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Many of Shanghai’s 25 million residents had gone through a 48-hour home lockdown last week to facilitate city-wide testing – in some cases more than once. Prior to this recent outbreak, most had not experienced home incarceration. In a press briefing Monday, officials said they would continue to perform test block by block.
Tangshan City in Hebei Province ordered vehicles off the road from Sunday after the first new cases were registered at the Steel Manufacturing Center – though only seven of them. Many of the city’s steelworks have stopped operating, according to the state-owned Global Times.
On Sunday, a leading expert from China’s Covid-19 task force reiterated that it was too early to treat the Omicron wave as a seasonal flu and let it spread. Liang Wannian, an official at the National Health Commission, said the variant’s ability to spread would result in an unacceptably high number of critical cases and deaths.
“It would cause great harm to a society and a nation,” though it may not be so dangerous to an individual, he said in an interview with state television company CGTN.
There are signs that public frustration is growing as more cities impose restrictions similar to those of the early days of the pandemic. Some people questioned why China did not open up like other countries; others complained of not being able to return home to see the family three lunar new years in a row. At Douban, a social media platform popular with book lovers, users inserted keywords such as “nucleic acid test” and “health codes” into ancient Chinese poems and classic foreign novels, expressing their sense of helplessness over the restrictions.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong said so would ease Covid restrictions, including halving quarantine for some incoming travelers to seven days and ending a ban on flights from countries including the United States. A plan to follow the mainland protocol and perform universal testing has been suspended. The move comes after CEO Carrie Lam said last week that businesses and the city’s 7.4 million residents could no longer tolerate strict containment measures that have isolated the financial center and affected all aspects of daily life.
Write to Wenxin Fan kl [email protected]
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