Millions of residents in China’s manufacturing hub of Guangzhou are currently on the verge of a major lockdown, as the southern province grapples with its worst Covid-19 outbreak yet. On Wednesday, residents were told to get tested for coronavirus, as infections soared past the 2,000 mark for two days running. Local cases are currently at the highest it has been since April 30, which has led authorities to announce on social media that five of the districts in the province, accounting for over half of its 19 million population, will be required to undergo mass testing. China has been contending with a string of major coronavirus outbreaks recently, plunging millions of people into lockdown at a time.
A few weeks ago, some 28 cities across the country, including the capital Beijing and Wuhan, where the virus first originated, were thrown into lockdown.
Data at the time revealed that nearly 208 million people are currently living under varying degrees of lockdown in China, as health officials pointed toward two highly contagious subvariant of Omicron – BF.7 and BA.5.1.7 as being responsible.
These lockdowns crushed any hopes that Xi Jinping would relax his government’s aggressive “zero Covid” strategy, despite the policy creating an economic slowdown.
In Guangzhou, authorities are scrambling to curb the outbreaks and lower the cases, before the cases get worse and the province if forced to go into a mass lockdown again.
Among the districts in Guangzhou that face mass testing this week include Haizhu, which has seen a bulk of the city’s cases. Meanwhile, a weekend-long district-wide lockdown has been extended further as cases rise.
Guangzhou resident Jason Li told Reuters: “My residential compound in Tianhe (district) has been locked up since yesterday. I was suddenly notified by my compound. Residents were instructed not to leave our building.”
Meanwhile, Lily Li, another resident added that in the past two days, the outbreak had worsened, having spread to Tianhe, just north of Haizhu. She said: “Honestly, it’s already a huge surprise that Tianhe hadn’t been affected sooner”.
On November 8, the province recorded 2,637 new locally transmitted cases of COVID-19, which was up from 2,377 the day before, marking the most serious outbreak in the region to date, and accounting for nearly a third of the cases across the country.
READ MORE: China in fresh Covid horror as 210m thrown in lockdown over variant
Despite facing no deaths since May, Xi Jinping has vowed to stick to the Zero Covid policy, even as the country’s economy takes a battering. This has led to some experts describing the policy as a “trap of its own making” for the Communist Party.
Virologist Jin Dongyan, from Hong Kong University, told The Washington Post: “If they open up now, there will be a major outbreak immediately. However, even if they do not open up, a major outbreak will sooner or later arise somewhere.”
Scientists have said that China’s approach to dealing with Covid is “not sustainable” and “someone has made the wrong judgment”, with Dr Jin adding: “They wrongly assessed the situation in the world, and they cannot come out from their own comfort zone.”
Such stringent measures could also be lowering consumer demand, as China’s factory gate prices for October dropped for the first time since December 2020, when the virus first struck.
In central China, Foxconn, which supplies Apple with parts, announced that it would continue to maintain a “closed-loop operation”, which is a system where staff are required to live on site, isolating them from the rest of the world.
These factory workers would continue to remain at the iPhone plant even as the region they are based no longer has lockdown restrictions on it.
Meanwhile, the company has declined to reveal how many people in the factory were infected, or the condition of those infected. Becuase of the issues at the plant, iPhone production has been lowered, which led Apple to announce that it expects lower shipments of the premium iPhone 14.