China has continued its extraordinary pursuit of a Covid-zero policy left behind by the rest of the world, locking down a million people over four cases of the virus.
All four cases are asymptomatic.
The district of Jiangxia in the Chinese metropolis of Wuhan — where the pandemic started in late 2019 — has been forced into lockdown for three days.
Local authorities made the decision to close bars, restaurants, cafes and churches and to suspend public transport on buses and subway services after the discovery on Tuesday of just four cases.
Two of the cases were discovered in testing and two were found among close contacts, CNN reports.
For those in neighbourhoods deemed high-risk — of which there are currently four — it means people cannot leave their homes.
In a statement, authorities said the measures had been decided upon in order to “further reduce the flow of people, lower the risk of cross-infection and achieve dynamic zero-Covid in the shortest time possible”.
Speaking with news.com.au on Thursday, KPMG’s chief economist Dr Brendan Rynne said the measures were unlikely to impact Australia’s economy the way they might if a city like Shanghai — a major financial centre — were locked down again.
That’s exactly what happened in April when more than 25 million people were locked in their homes and the economy in Shanghai was ground to a halt.
City streets in China’s second largest city were empty and those who disobeyed stay-at-home rules were arrested.
By far the most controversial of all the rules created to keep the virus at bay was one that saw babies and young children separated from their parents.
Unverified videos of babies and young children in state-run wards were widely shared.
The policy understandably caused anxiety, frustration and outrage in the city but the unbending virus controls were defended by Chinese officials.
Wu Qianyu, an official from the Shanghai Municipal Health Commission, said that rules were rules and they were in place to keep the public safe, whatever the cost.
“If the child is younger than seven years old, those children will receive treatment in a public health centre,” she said.
Bloomberg reported on Wednesday that the lockdown in Wuhan has many concerned about what might happen in the southern financial hub of Shenzhen, which also reported four news cases.
IPhone maker Foxconn is among some 100-odd companies operating in the city which has been asked to restrict operations, the outlet reported.
The local government has asked that workers have minimal contact with people outside their “bubble”, which includes the office.
Until March, China had successfully kept the daily caseload down to double or triple digits, with harsh localised lockdowns, mass testing and travel restrictions.
But the pandemic has reared its head again. Time will tell whether the Covid-zero policy has the impact authorities hope it will.
— with AFP