China locked down millions of people in Hainan Island and Tibet’s two biggest cities, Lhasa and Shigatse, for mass testing for Covid-19.
China reported 828 new domestically transmitted cases on Monday with more than 70% of those cases found in Hainan, one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations, and Xinjiang.
Millions of residents on Hainan are currently locked down in several cities and towns, and allowed out only for Covid tests, grocery shopping and essential job roles. Around 178,000 tourists were also stranded in the southern island province, according to state media reports.
Provincial authorities have been told they must adopt all measures to achieve “Covid zero at the community level” by Friday, with no new cases emerging in communities outside quarantined areas, Hainan’s government said in a statement late on Monday.
Hainan’s success in containing smaller clusters in April and July had caused complacency among officials and residents, one provincial health official claimed.
“We still have many shortcomings and weaknesses in Covid epidemiologic investigation, testing and treatment,” Zhou Changqiang, the head of Hainan’s health commission, told state television in a programme that aired late on Monday.
Subvariants of the highly transmissible Omicron are challenging China’s strategy of swiftly blocking the spread of each nascent cluster. Regions that have seen relatively few cases for more than two years are now battling outbreaks, raising the risk of persistent tight restrictions as the economy weakens.
Lhasa Shuts Down
In Tibet, which had previously found only one symptomatic Covid infection in more than 900 days, local authorities reported one local patient with confirmed symptoms and 21 asymptomatic infections on Monday August 8.
Lhasa, Tibet’s biggest city and provincial capital, has suspended large events and closed various entertainment and religious venues.
Tibet’s second-largest city Shigatse has entered three days of curbs during which people are banned from entering or leaving, with many businesses suspended.
Lhasa and Shigatse are running a fresh round of mass testing, and the second round would begin on Wednesday, state television said on Tuesday.
In Tibet’s Ngari prefecture, three towns have started three rounds of mass testing, while the remaining towns are in their first round, state television said.
As of August 8, mainland China had logged a cumulative 231,665 cases with symptoms, including both local patients and those arriving from outside the mainland.
There were no new deaths reported on August 8, keeping the nation’s fatalities at 5,226.
China’s capital Beijing, along with financial hub Shanghai and the southern technology centre of Shenzhen reported zero new local cases.
- Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard