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A queue forms at a nucleic acid testing site in Nanshan district in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, on Thursday. Photo: Reuters

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
China’s southern tech hub of Shenzhen stepped up its Covid-19 control measures on Thursday by putting key districts, including Nanshan, where many hi-tech firms are based, under semi-lockdown for at least three days.

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.

In contrast, life in neighbouring Hong Kong, where over 10,500 cases were logged on Thursday, remains largely uninterrupted, as tens of thousands of children returned to school for the start of a new academic year.


Shenzhen shuts down world’s largest electronics wholesale market due to Covid-19 outbreak

Shenzhen shuts down world’s largest electronics wholesale market due to Covid-19 outbreak

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.

On Thursday afternoon, Chengdu – capital of southwestern Sichuan province – became the latest major Chinese city to lock down all of its 21 million residents, triggering frenzied last-minute shopping.
In Shenzhen’s Nanshan, where tech giant Tencent Holdings is headquartered, all large-scale events have been suspended from Thursday evening through Sunday. Non-essential businesses, such as karaoke rooms and cinemas, have been ordered to close, according to a government announcement. Supermarkets, farmers’ markets and restaurants have paused dine-in services.

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.

Similar restrictions have also been imposed in Baoan, a tech and exhibition hub, where Shenzhen’s airport is located. The districts of Futian, Luohu, Longgang and Longhua have been following similar rules since earlier this week.
Stricter lockdowns have been imposed in some subdistricts, including Huaqiangbei, home to the world’s largest electronics wholesale market. Residents there have been confined to their homes since Monday and all businesses have been closed.
A covered nucleic acid testing area in Shenzhen’s Huaqiangbei, the world’s largest electronics wholesale market. Photo: Reuters

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.

“It was a sleepless night for all of the exhibitors and attendees,” said a dealer surnamed Liu, who travelled from the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing.
“Many of them took the taxi to the Guangzhou airport after midnight, since a lot of flights were cancelled in Shenzhen and the available flights were expensive,” Liu said.

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.

A sign outside a compound warns of a high risk area in Shenzhen’s Futian district. Photo: Reuters

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.