This week the government in China’s Chengdu informed its 21 million residents that they will be locked down starting 6pm Thursday as officials are trying to stamp out an Covid outbreak.
The cases were below 1,500, but inhabitants of the city saw officials impose lockdown measures swiftly in a manner that reminded them of the woes that Shanghai residents experienced when they were placed under lockdown for two months.
Scenes of supermarket shelves running dry, motorists rushing home and people outside ATMs were seen all over the city – an event that many Chinese citizens consider the new normal. The Chengdu officials did not give any information regarding the lifting of the lockdown. Citizens were told to be present for the citywide mass testing on September 2 and September 4. People were arrested for inciting panic by spreading rumours of ‘restrictions’.
The capital of Sichuan province found close to 1,000 cases over the past 10 days and health officials in the city attributed the chain of transmission to the swimming pools that residents flocked to earlier this summer, casting off their masks, Bloomberg News reported citing city health official Fan Shuangfeng.
The effect of the lockdown is such that people have cut down their portion sizes fearing that they may have to starve. Bloomberg News spoke to a couple who chose to decrease their food intake so that they do not have to encounter the fate of Shanghai residents earlier this year.
Chengdu joins megacities like Shanghai, Shenzhen and Zhengzhou who witnessed harsh implementation of Covid Zero in 2022. It is an increase when compared to how China tackled Covid in 2021 when only Shijiazhuang and Xi’an were locked down. All of these cities also have sizable populations, with more than 10 million people living in each one of them.
It is also noteworthy that the four cities that witnessed massive lockdowns are also among the largest contributors to China’s GDP.
The reasons are the same for the snap lockdowns. China tells its residents that the lockdowns are imposed to arrest the rise in cases but China observers know that Chinese president Xi Jinping wants Covid Zero implemented because he seeks a smooth transition into his third term once the twice-a-decade Congress kicks off on October 15.
(with inputs from Bloomberg)
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