Some 21 million people have been placed under sanitary confinement Thursday in the Chinese City of Chengdu as a result of a new outbreak of COVID-19 in a move to tackle an extremely complex and serious pandemic situation, it was reported.
Local authorities said that all residents will have to remain at home in principle from 18.00 local time and that each household will be able to designate a member to go out to buy groceries, as long as the person has a negative PCR test performed in the previous 24 hours.
On the other hand, people who perform basic tasks for the functioning of the city and prevention against the epidemic will be allowed to enter and leave neighborhoods with a special electronic pass.
People have also been banned from leaving the Chengdu municipal area except under exceptional cases which will nevertheless require a negative PCR test.
Such tests will be performed on all residents between Thursday and Sunday, while cab and public bicycle services have been readjusted in frequency.
Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan province, is one of the most populous in the country, and one of the main economic centers of central and western China. It has also made the headlines recently for a heat wave not seen in decades and a drought that led to limiting energy use in some industries.
Selective confinements have already been mandated over the past few days after 106 new symptomatic cases and 51 asymptomatic ones were detected.
China has been sticking to its zero Covid policy due to which residents of major cities have had to undergo several weekly PCR tests to enter public places, and confinements have been ordered in areas where cases have been detected.
In addition to the massive PCR tests and confinements, the country has kept its borders practically closed to the outside world since March of 2020.
In China, since the beginning of the pandemic, 243,449 people have been infected and 5,226 have died, although the total number of infected people excludes those who are asymptomatic, according to official figures.
The new sanitary measure has been perceived as a new red flag for stability and economic growth. Chengdu accounts for about 1.7% of China's GDP, thanks to a strong industrial fabric that includes plants of Toyota, Volkswagen, Intel, and Foxconn, the world's largest assembler of third-party electronics, including Apple iPhones and iPads. The place is also a popular tourist destination, famous for its giant pandas.
Industries will be allowed to continue working under the closed-loop mechanism, but Volvo declared the temporary closure of its Chengdu plant, and flights to and from Chengdu were drastically reduced. Departing passengers will also be allowed to board their flights after a negative test.
It is unclear whether the confinement will be lifted on Sunday after the mass testing ends. Other major cities, including Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and Dalian, also tightened anti-Covid measures by expanding areas subject to blockades and controls.