14 août 2022

China: Metropolises again confined after an explosion of Omicron cases.

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After days of ramping up restrictions, the city of Shenzhen, one of southern China's economic hubs, on Sunday evening ordered its 17 million residents to stay at home for a week. On Saturday, it was Shanghai which drastically limited the comings and goings of its citizens by imposing two PCR tests in forty-eight hours for any entry or exit from the city. The day before, the city of Changchun, capital of Jilin, in northeastern China, had announced the strict confinement of its 9 million inhabitants, a measure soon imitated by several cities in the province.

China continues to apply a zero tolerance policy to the virus, reacting to the slightest case by isolating patient contact cases for fourteen days, and even contact cases from contact cases, rigorously traced. When outbreaks appear, cities do not hesitate to test millions of people and isolate entire districts. But China had not locked down a major city since a Delta hotbed in the city of Xi'an in late 2021.

Despite a few cases of the Omicron variant, the country had managed to maintain control over the epidemic during the Winter Olympics in Beijing, thanks to an airtight sanitary bubble. The situation has changed in recent weeks, with an explosion of imported cases, particularly from Hong Kong. The Chinese territory has noted the failure of its zero Covid policy, recording up to 56,000 cases on March 4, to the point that the territory of 7 million inhabitants has the highest mortality rate per inhabitant in the world, since early March.

China is now putting everything in place to avoid a repeat of this scenario on the continent, which is less rich and less well equipped in medical infrastructure than Hong Kong. In Shanghai, where hundreds of residences are confined, schools have been closed and classes are taking place online from Monday. Temporary testing centers have sprung up in city parks as many companies require all of their employees to be tested. The Chinese economic capital recorded 169 cases for the day on Sunday, including 128 asymptomatic.

Deborah.N

Crédit photo: Sciences et Avenir