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China locks down part of Wuhan, nearly three years after first Covid case emerged

Chinese cities from Wuhan in central China to Xining in the north-west are doubling down on Covid-19 curbs, sealing up buildings, locking down districts and throwing millions into distress in a scramble to halt widening outbreaks.

China on Thursday reported a third straight day of more than 1,000 new Covid cases nationwide, a modest tally compared with the tens of thousands a day that sent Shanghai into a full-blown lockdown earlier this year but enough to trigger more curbs and restrictions across the country.

Wuhan, site of the world’s first Covid-19 outbreak in late 2019, reported about 20 to 25 new infections a day this week. The city has registered 240 cases over the past 14 days. Local authorities ordered more than 800,000 people in one district to stay at home until 30 October.

Wuhan also suspended the sale of pork in parts of the city, according to images and posts on social media, after authorities said one Covid case had been linked to the local pork supply chain.

Guangzhou, China’s fourth-biggest city by economic output and the provincial capital of Guangdong, on Thursday sealed up more streets and neighbourhoods and kept people in their homes as new areas were deemed high-risk in a Covid resurgence that has persisted into its fourth week.

In Xining, capital of Qinghai province, social media posts told of food shortages and price inflation for essential goods as health authorities in the city of 2.5 million people raced to contain a Covid rebound after the week-long National Day holiday in early October.

“To reduce the risk of transmission, some vegetable and fruit stores have been closed and put under quarantine,” said a Xining government official on Wednesday.

China’s coronavirus case load has remained small by global standards, but its ultra-strict containment measures against the highly transmissible Omicron variant have weighed heavily on the world’s second-largest economy and rattled financial markets.

Other large cities across China including Datong and Xi’an have implemented new curbs this week to rein in local outbreaks.

In Beijing, the Universal Resort theme park was shut on Wednesday after at least one visitor tested positive for coronavirus.

In Zhengzhou, there was an outbreak at a factory that employs about 300,000 people and is known as the largest producer of iPhones in the world.

Foxconn Technology Group, which runs the facility, acknowledged the flare-up on Wednesday but said “operation and production … is relatively stable”.

“Health and safety measures for employees (are) being maintained,” the Taiwanese electronics maker said, adding that it was “providing the necessary guarantees for livelihoods, including material supplies, psychological comfort and responsive feedback”.

The company did not specify how many staff were affected by the outbreak but said it was a “small number” and that unsubstantiated online rumours of tens of thousands of infections were “patently false”.

“At present, the epidemic prevention work in Zhengzhou is progressing steadily, and the impact … is controllable,” the statement said.

China has repeatedly vowed to stick to its zero-tolerance response to Covid-19 and implement what the authorities say are necessary measures to contain the virus.

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