China has sealed off a large city near Beijing, cutting transport links and banning millions of residents from leaving, as authorities move to stem the country’s largest Covid-19 outbreak in six months.
The pandemic has so far broadly been brought to heel by Chinese authorities since its emergence in Wuhan in late 2019, with small outbreaks swiftly snuffed out with mass testing, local lockdowns and travel restrictions.
Around 100 new Covid-19 cases have been discovered in the past week in Shijiazhuang, a city of several million in Hebei province whose surrounding areas take the total population to 11 million.
All vehicles and residents were banned from leaving the city and train services suspended, authorities announced late Thursday.
Footage from state broadcaster CCTV showed residents being swabbed by medical workers in hazmat suits at community centres in Shijiazhuang while queues outside stretched around the block.
Virus control staff stood guard at highways entering the city, which had mostly been blocked by barricades, the images released on Thursday showed.
Hebei province reported 33 new confirmed Covid-19 cases on Friday in addition to 51 from the day before — pushing the nationwide daily total to the highest figure in five months.
The vast majority of the infections were found in Shijiazhuang.
Schools have been closed and citywide mass testing of residents is under way, having sampled over 670,000 people as of Thursday morning, state media reported.
Staff were filmed giving injections of China’s recently approved Sinopharm vaccine, which has a 79 percent efficacy rate.
Three officials from the city’s worst-hit Gaocheng district — the epicentre of the latest outbreak — have been disciplined for apparent negligence in virus control, a sign of the pressure on local authorities to squash the virus wherever it emerges.
© 2021 AFP