Everyone in a district of 1.8 million people in southern China’s Guangzhou was ordered to stay home on Saturday to undergo virus tests, and a major southwestern city closed schools as another surge in infections was reported.
Nationwide, a total of 11,773 infections were found in the past 24 hours, of which 10,351 were in people with no symptoms, the health committee announced. China’s numbers are low, but the increase over the past week is a challenge to a “zero-COVID” policy aimed at isolating all infected people.
Quarantine for travelers arriving in China was cut to five days from seven as part of changes to anti-virus controls announced on Friday to reduce costs and disruption. But the ruling Communist Party said it would stick to “zero COVID” even as other countries eased travel and other restrictions and tried to shift to a long-term policy of living with the virus.
A total of 3,775 infections were found in Guangzhou, a city of 13 million, including 2,996 in people who showed no symptoms, according to the NHC. That was an increase from Friday’s total of 3,030, including 2,461 people without symptoms.
People in Guangzhou’s Haizhu district were ordered to stay at home on Saturday while tests were conducted, the provincial government announced on its social media account. One person per household was allowed to buy food.
Guangzhou, 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of Hong Kong, has closed schools and bus and subway services across much of the city as cases rise.
Flights from Guangzhou to the Chinese capital Beijing and other major cities have been cancelled.
Nationally, people who want to enter supermarkets, office buildings and other public buildings must show negative results from a virus test taken as often as once a day. It allows authorities to spot infections in people with no symptoms.
In the southwest, the industrial city of Chongqing closed schools in its Beibei district, home to 840,000 people. Residents were prevented from leaving a number of apartments in the Yubei district, but the city gave no indication of how many were affected.
The ruling party earlier this year moved to isolate buildings or neighborhoods where infections are found instead of its previous approach of suspending access to cities following complaints that it was too costly. But in an epidemic, such restrictions can still reach areas with millions of inhabitants.
Public discontent and complaints that residents are sometimes left without access to food or medicine have boiled over into protests and clashes with local officials in some areas.
Elsewhere, mass testing was also carried out on Saturday in eight provinces with a total of 6.6 million people in the central city of Zhengzhou.
Access to an industrial zone in Zhengzhou, home to the world’s largest iPhone factory, was suspended last week after an outbreak. Apple Inc. warned that deliveries of the new iPhone 14 model would be delayed.
Despite efforts to mitigate damage to the world’s second-largest economy, forecasters say business and consumer activity are weakening after growth eased back to 3.9% year-on-year in the three months ended September from 2.2% in the first half .
Economists have cut their forecast for China’s annual economic growth to as low as 3%, which would be among the lowest in decades.
President Xi Jinping’s government has refused to import foreign vaccines and rejected requests to release more information about the origin of the virus, which was first discovered in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019.
Economists and public health experts say “zero COVID” could be in place for up to another year. They say millions of elderly people must be vaccinated before the ruling party can consider lifting controls that keep most foreign visitors out of China.
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