BEIJING (AP) – The manufacturing hub of Guangzhou closed Monday for most arrivals as China battles a major COVID-19 surge in its major cities in the east.
Shanghai has borne the brunt of the surge, with a further 26,087 cases reported Monday, of which just 914 showed symptoms. The city of 26 million people is under strict lockdown, with many residents locked in their homes for up to three weeks.
No such lockdown has yet been announced for Guangzhou, a metropolis of 18 million northwest of Hong Kong that is home to many top companies and China’s busiest airport. As of Monday, just 27 cases were reported in the city.
However, elementary and middle schools have switched to online after initially detecting 23 local infections over the past week. An exhibition center has been turned into a makeshift hospital after authorities earlier said they would begin citywide mass testing.
Only citizens with a “clear need” to leave Guangzhou can do so, and only if they test negative for the virus within 48 hours of departure, city spokesman Chen Bin said in an announcement in the US social media.
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China has stuck to its “zero-COVID” strategy of treating outbreaks with strict isolation and mass testing, despite complaints in Shanghai about shortages of food and medical supplies.
China’s government and fully state-controlled media have responded increasingly defensively to complaints about COVID-19 prevention measures, censoring online content and scolding foreign critics.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Sunday China had “submitted solemn declarations to the United States” after the State Department advised Americans not to travel to China for “arbitrary enforcement” of local laws and COVID-19 restrictions, particularly in Hong Kong, Jilin, reconsider province and Shanghai. US officials spoke of the danger that “parents and children will be separated”.
China is “deeply dissatisfied with the groundless allegation by the US side against China’s response to the epidemic and strongly opposes it,” Zhao said.
Despite this, and signs that the hard-line policy will be dictated by ruling Communist Party chief Xi Jinping, China has rejected any notion that its response is political in nature. Xi has primarily called for social stability ahead of a key party convention later this year, at which he is expected to earn an unprecedented third term as party leader.
The English-language China Daily acknowledged that Shanghai’s measures are “far from perfect,” citing the firing of three local officials last week for failing to carry out their duties, blaming China.”
Despite the large case numbers, no new deaths were reported in the Shanghai wave, possibly because the Omicron variant is less deadly than older variants.
City authorities also say they have ensured residents’ daily supplies following complaints about deliveries of groceries and other necessities.
Residents have resorted to bulk grocery shopping because they are restricted from leaving their buildings, with only partial success in obtaining the items they need.
The capital Beijing has had relatively few restrictions, although the Erjiefang district, including the famous 798 art district, has been sealed off and classified as high risk after eight infections were reported there in the past two weeks.
China is facing one of its worst local outbreaks since the pandemic began. China is still mostly closed to international travel, even as most of the world has been looking at ways to live with the virus.
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