Amid a resurgence of the Covid-19 epidemic in some regions, China has placed 1.7 million people in lockdown in eastern Anhui province, where some 300 new cases of the illness were reported on Monday, July 4. Beijing is taking a tough approach to the virus, with big testing campaigns, mandatory quarantines and lockdowns as soon as a few cases appear.
The renewed epidemic in Anhui comes at a time when the Chinese economy is slowly recovering from the containment of Shanghai, lifted in early June after several months. Two counties in the province, Si and Lingbi, have announced lockdowns affecting more than 1.7 million people. They can only leave their homes to get tested.
Public broadcaster CCTV aired images of empty streets in Si township over the weekend, with residents queuing to take their sixth PCR test within days. On Monday, the health ministry reported 287 new cases for Anhui, bringing the total to more than 1,000 for the province in recent days.
Provincial Governor Wang Qingxian urged authorities to “implement rapid testing” as well as quarantine and reporting of cases as soon as possible.
On Monday, the eastern neighboring province of Jiangsu also reported 56 new cases in four cities. Photos circulating on social media show hundreds of people dressed in full protective suits queuing in Wuxi, a city in Jiangsu. They seem to be waiting to get on buses to reach quarantine centers.
Some photos show babies dressed in blue protective clothing, carried on their shoulders by people dragging suitcases and waiting outside a hospital in the sweltering heat. In Wuxi, temperatures have reached 36 degrees in recent days.
The number of cases remains very low in China compared to the vast majority of other countries. But the authorities intend to limit the circulation of the virus as much as possible because of the limited medical resources in some places and the relatively low rate of vaccination among the elderly.
However, this strategy weighs heavily on the Chinese economy. The only notable relaxation taken in recent weeks by the authorities: the quarantine on arrival in the country is now reduced to ten days, against at least twenty-one previously.