BEIJING: On Tuesday, more than one million people were confined to their homes in a city in central China after three asymptomatic coronavirus cases were reported in the country’s latest mass lockdown.
Since the virus’s emergence, Beijing has taken a “zero Covid” approach, enforcing strict border restrictions and implementing targeted lockdowns.
However, with only a month until the Winter Olympics, the strategy has come under fire due to a series of recent local outbreaks.
Yuzhou, a city in Henan province with a population of around 1.17 million people, announced that beginning Monday night, all citizens would be required to stay at home to prevent the virus from spreading.
Three cases were discovered in the last few days, prompting the announcement.
According to a statement released Monday, people in the central area “must not go out,” and all communities will set up “sentinels and gates to strictly implement epidemic prevention and control measures.”
The city had already announced that bus and taxi services would be suspended, as well as the closure of shopping malls, museums, and tourist attractions.
On Tuesday, China reported 175 new Covid-19 cases, including five in Henan province and eight more in a separate cluster linked to a garment factory in Ningbo in the east.
Despite the fact that the number of reported cases is low when compared to other parts of the world, new coronavirus infections have reached a high not seen in the country since March 2020 in recent weeks.
On Tuesday, 95 new cases were reported in Xi’an, a historic city with a population of 13 million people in neighbouring Shaanxi province that has been under lockdown for nearly two weeks.
Since December 9, Xi’an has reported over 1,600 cases, though numbers have started to decline in recent days compared to last week’s figures.
Local officials who are found to have failed to prevent virus outbreaks in China are frequently fired or punished, prompting a series of increasingly stringent responses from provincial governments as they attempt to quickly eradicate any cases.
Two senior Communist Party officials in Xi’an were removed from their posts due to their “lack of rigour in preventing and controlling the outbreak.”
Last month, China’s disciplinary body announced the punishment of dozens of officials for failing to prevent the outbreak in the city.
The increase coincides with Beijing’s preparations for the Winter Olympics, which will take place next month.