In order to limit Covid-19 ahead of a significant ruling Communist Party gathering this year, officials enforced a lockdown on millions of people in the districts surrounding China’s capital on Tuesday.
As authorities scramble to contain a minor virus flare-up, nearly four million residents of Hebei province, which encircles Beijing, have been told to stay at home till the end of the week.
And after 51 relatively minor cases were discovered, more than 13 million people in the nearby port city of Tianjin must undergo mass testing starting at 6 am (2200 GMT).
Lockdowns, travel bans, and mass testing have disrupted businesses and slowed growth in China, the only major economy in the world to maintain a zero-Covid policy.
In preparation for the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party, which is scheduled to take place within the next three months, Beijing has strengthened its stance on the issue.
President Xi Jinping, who will be inaugurated for an unprecedented third term in power during the conference, is largely regarded as leaving behind a political legacy that is heavily influenced by how he handled the pandemic.
But “the actual Covid situation in China might be worsening, as Omicron has once again spread to large cities”, Nomura analyst Ting Lu warned in a research note.
The largest city in western China, Chengdu, has also experienced severe travel restrictions.
The largest electronics market in the world, Huaqiangbei, has been closed, despite the fact that Shenzhen, a city of over 18 million people, in the south, only has 35 reported cases each day.
“The notice to close came abruptly, we only had a few hours to put our stock into warehouses and lock up,” a trader at the Huaqiangbei tech market, who only offered his last name Chen, told AFP.
Large-scale public activities have been postponed in Futian, where the local government is based, and parks, karaoke bars, and theaters are all closed until Friday.
Despite the fact that no incidents were reported there, authorities also sealed off the Wanxia neighborhood on the outskirts of the city, which provides migrant workers and delivery drivers with modest accommodation.