Wider lockdowns in Shenzhen trigger exodus of travellers as China’s tech hub comes to a standstill
- Key districts in Shenzhen, including Nanshan, where Tencent Holdings is based, has been put under semi-lockdown, after Covid-19 cases rose
- Exhibitors travelling to a pet fair in Baoan district scrambled for last-minute flights upon learning that the event was cancelled
The city of over 17 million escalated restrictions to a level unseen since March, when a week-long lockdown was imposed citywide to contain the few dozen cases that were detected daily. Local authorities recorded 62 cases on Wednesday, 27 of them asymptomatic – marking the highest daily tally in about half a year.
The Shenzhen government’s tightened controls are part of nationwide efforts to keep a lid on growing coronavirus outbreaks across the country – a task that is becoming increasingly difficult as more infectious variants emerge.
All residents in the area are required to take a nucleic acid test every 24 hours and present a negative result to leave or enter any residential compound.
The Shenzhen government is also limiting travel out of the city by requiring departing travellers to present two negative test results within 48 hours before boarding a plane or a train.
Strengthened measures this week have set off an exodus. Business visitors fled the city upon learning late on Tuesday night that Pet Fair Asia in Baoan had been cancelled just hours before it was scheduled to open.
Liu said she bought a ticket at 2am for the first train on Wednesday to Changsha city in central Hunan province, to avoid being “trapped” in Shenzhen, in case the entire city was locked down.
Dylan Wang, an exhibitor, said he and his colleagues just finished setting up the booth of their Beijing-based pet food company when he saw the announcement on WeChat that the event was cancelled.
“We were all in shock,” Wang said. “We checked with [the organisers] over and over again when we first heard that other exhibitions in Futian were called off, and every time they swore there wouldn’t be a problem.”
Wang said more than a tonne of his company’s goods have been locked inside the Shenzhen World Exhibition & Convention Centre, although the organiser has promised to take care of them and reschedule the fair at a later date.
To avoid flying directly from Shenzhen to Beijing, which could lead to quarantine upon arrival, Wang and his colleagues travelled instead to Foshan, a city just over 100km (62 miles) away, where they will stay for seven days before returning home.
Wang said his company had poured hundreds of thousands of yuan into its exhibition booth, but he said the biggest loss is the potential customers who may never come back.
“Many of the clients have wasted their time coming to Shenzhen for the show, and some said they won’t come here again even when it reopens,” he said.