Chinese mega city hit recently by earthquake extends Covid curbs indefinitely

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Covid restrictions have been extended in a Chinese metropolis which is the capital of a province where a debilitating 6.8-magnitude earthquake that struck on Monday led to the deaths of 82 people.

Chengdu city, inhabited by 21 million people, has become the largest Chinese mega city to face a stringent lockdown as its officials on Thursday extended restrictions that were rolled out on 1 September to prevent local transmission of Covid.

China marked the end of restrictions earlier this year in June when Shanghai removed a two-month lockdown on its residents who faced a strict “zero-Covid” policy and were not allowed to leave homes.

But officials quickly imposed the restrictions again last week on Chengdu – the capital of Sichuan province – which is already facing heatwaves and power cuts apart from the earthquake, because of which fatalities have now neared 100, hospitalisations have increased to 270 and more than 20,000 moved to temporary shelters for fear of landslides.

The metropolis reported fewer than 200 daily Covid cases – comparatively smaller than those seen in other parts of the world.

Chengdu recorded 116 new cases on Wednesday, down from 121 reported a day earlier, officials said.

Even as many in the city were hoping for the lockdown to be removed on Wednesday, officials said Covid continued to pose a risk in some areas and announced for the lockdown to continue.

At least 16 million of the total 21.2-million population is, thus, still under a lockdown even as residents grow tired of continuing restrictions.

According to Covid protocol, residents in lockdown zones will have to undergo tests every day. Those who test positive will have to be quarantined.

Officials have asked locals in areas found to be high risk to not step out of their homes.

The city is looking to achieve zero new community infections within a week, Chengdu’s Covid prevention and control command said in a statement.

People living in some of the districts were allowed to step out after a full curfew was lifted. But residents will still have to face mass testing on Friday and Sunday, officials said.

As of now, locals in districts which do not face complete curfews are not allowed to visit other districts and have been asked to not leave Chengdu, barring essential reasons.

The policies will be “dynamically adjusted according to the development of the epidemic,” the city’s Covid prevention office said.