Several major Chinese cities tightened COVID-19 restrictions on Tuesday, with more businesses closing in Shenzhen and millions of people confined in Dalian, renewing economic uncertainty and delaying the start of school for some.
The new measures, which will last only a few days for now, reflect China’s insistence on its proactive “zero COVID” policy, which aims to end all outbreaks the moment they occur.
The stakes are higher for China’s already faltering national economy than it was earlier this month, when lockdowns were mostly in smaller cities. A further escalation or prolongation of lockdowns in large metropolises such as Chengdu in southwestern China could hurt the country’s lukewarm economic growth.
“Markets could be hit again in the next couple of weeks, likely triggering another round of cuts by economists,” Nomura warned in a note on Tuesday, highlighting the importance of cities like Shenzhen, a southern tech hub. .
Longhua, a district of Shenzhen with a population of 2.5 million, closed several entertainment venues and wholesale markets on Tuesday, and suspended major events.
People must show a negative COVID test within 24 hours to enter residential premises, and restaurants must limit the number of customers to no more than 50% capacity, the Longhua district authority said. The new restrictions are expected to expire on Saturday.
The measures followed similar ones announced Monday, affecting more than 6 million people in Shenzhen, a city that has battled multiple outbreaks of mutations of the omicron variant of the coronavirus this year.
Although the city authorities have not announced a general delay of the new school year, six parents with children in primary and secondary schools said they had been notified by their schools of the postponements, with many parents expressing anxiety about the uncertainty in chat groups.
In Dalian, a large port in northeastern China important for the import of soybeans and iron ore, the main urban areas, with some 3 million inhabitants, entered a lockdown on Tuesday that will last until Sunday. Households can only send one person a day to buy essential items.
During the lockdown, non-essential workers must work from home, while manufacturing companies must reduce staff at their facilities and maintain only basic and urgent operations.
In the southwestern city of Chengdu, Wuhou and Qingyang districts on Tuesday suspended many locals and tour groups and planned to delay the start of the fall semester for schools, after Jinniu district tightened restrictions on Monday. The three districts have about 3.5 million residents in total.
The northern municipality of Tianjin, with a population of 13.7 million, began a new round of city-wide COVID tests on Tuesday to identify infections in the community, the fourth such measure since Saturday.
In the northern city of Shijiazhuang, about a 3.5-hour drive from Beijing, four major districts have ordered more than 3 million residents to work from home as of Wednesday afternoon, excluding essential workers.
Mainland China reported 1,717 nationally transmitted COVID infections on Aug. 29, of which 349 were symptomatic and 1,368 asymptomatic, according to official data on Tuesday.