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Workers erect fencing around a neighbourhood in lockdown in Shanghai’s Changning district on Friday. Photo: AFP

Extreme zero-Covid rules in China ahead of Communist Party congress

  • One city targets all people from another province with red health codes, while a county goes into complete ‘silence’ to prevent transmission
  • Testing still deployed as a key line of defence against the coronavirus spreading
With just a week to go until the Communist Party’s congress, local governments across China are doubling down on zero-Covid efforts, imposing measures such as pre-emptive lockdowns and blanket bans to quash coronavirus flare-ups.
The congress, held every five years, gets under way in Beijing next Sunday, and the tighter Covid-19 controls in place for the event prompted many people to abandon travel plans for the week-long National Day break.

While the public were advised to stay put during the holidays, they were allowed to travel. Anybody wishing to go to another province had to have a negative PCR test within 48 hours of leaving home and another upon arrival.

However, when many holidaymakers tried to return home, they came up against tougher curbs, from lockdowns to denial of entry and isolation, as jittery governments sought to cut chains of transmission.

China reported 1,748 new infections, most of them asymptomatic, across 28 provinces on Sunday.

Human cost of China’s zero-Covid policy measured in stress, anxiety

Authorities in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, took the extreme measure of giving a red health code to all people from Henan in the city, according to an unverified document leaked on Saturday.

The document, purportedly from Beilun district, said that all the 60,000 or so people from Henan already in Ningbo were subject to three days of home quarantine and four days of home health monitoring if they are not from higher-risk areas in Henan.

During the week, they must have six PCR tests. Those from high or medium-risk areas of Henan would be sent to public quarantine facilities.

Henan is a major source of workers for the city and there was no explanation for why the province was singled out. Henan has reported a tiny number of daily infections recently. As of Sunday, it had only six areas of high risk, all in the city of Pingdingshan.

“This is ridiculous! Why does it involve all the people from Henan?” a user wrote on social media platform Weibo. “It’s obviously blind and excessive control!”

The Beilun district government apologised on Sunday, saying it was sorry for “simplifying” control practices for a large group of people.


Xinjiang restricts outbound travel as officials admit to Covid-19 mistakes

Xinjiang restricts outbound travel as officials admit to Covid-19 mistakes

Further west in Shanxi province, the government of Yongji placed the whole county under a three-day lockdown on Friday even though there had been no local infections.

“To follow the instructions of the provincial government, contain the risk of Covid-19 spreading from outside, ensure people’s health and security, we decided to put Yongji into silence,” the government said in a statement, avoiding use of the term “lockdown”.

Roads out of the county were blocked and only vehicles supplying necessities were allowed to enter. Public venues were closed, except for hospitals and government-appointed supermarkets. Weddings had to be postponed, funerals simplified and banquets called off. And residents had to undergo three rounds of mass testing during the three days.


‘Caught in a dilemma’: Beijingers frustrated by 3 years of Covid travel curbs in Chinese capital

‘Caught in a dilemma’: Beijingers frustrated by 3 years of Covid travel curbs in Chinese capital

Measures in other places were less extreme but all provinces have strengthened their defence against Covid-19 to show compliance with the party.

In Zhejiang, the provincial government urged officials to understand “the ultra-importance” of Covid-19 control and prevention and of consolidating defences. The capital city of Hangzhou has required travellers from other provinces to conduct a PCR test within 1½ hours of arrival. The municipal government of Wenzhou requires an extra PCR test 24 hours after the first one.

Most districts of Shanghai launched mass testing on Sunday, after 70 infections were logged in the seven days to Friday.

Wu Huanyu, deputy director of Shanghai’s disease control and prevention centre, said on Saturday that the Omicron variant raised an “enormous challenge” for the city, driving growth in cases in commercial complexes, airports, railway stations, hotels, schools and bars.