China's Suzhou city steps up Covid-19 control; overseas firms' local operations affected

A photo from Oct 28, 2015, shows an employee at a logistic centre in Suzhou. The city reported eight Covid-19 cases. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (REUTERS) - A major Chinese high-tech industry centre limited some highway access on Tuesday (Feb 15) after detecting new Covid-19 cases, while epidemic control measures, including mass testing, affected the local operations of overseas firms such as Robert Bosch GmbH.

The city of Suzhou - a trading, commercial and industrial hub in the eastern province of Jiangsu - reported eight domestically transmitted infections with confirmed symptoms for Monday, the National Health Commission (NHC) said on Tuesday.

The highly transmissible Omicron variant was detected among the cases, a Suzhou official said on Monday, without specifying the number of Omicron cases.

Despite the low caseload by global standards, Suzhou said on Monday it had suspended some long-distance bus services, locked down affected buildings and urged residents not to leave home or the city for nonessential reasons.

On Tuesday, it closed 15 highway entrances and required drivers and passengers leaving through others to have proof of negative test results within 48 hours.

Suzhou Industrial Park - an important high-tech development zone that hosts about 100,000 companies and accommodates manufacturing facilities of foreign firms such as Samsung and Eli Lilly - started a round of mass testing on Monday.

"We expect a short-term impact on our manufacturing and logistics operations in Suzhou," automotive supplier Robert Bosch said in a statement to Reuters late on Monday, adding that local office staffers were working from home.

Taiwan's United Microelectronics Corporation said on Monday that its 8-inch wafer fabrication subsidiary in Suzhou had temporarily suspended production because of a suspected Covid-19 infection, but said it saw no material impact on the company's finances.

Including the infections in Suzhou, about 80km west of Shanghai, mainland China detected 40 locally transmitted cases with confirmed symptoms for Monday, according to the NHC.

There were no new deaths, leaving the death toll unchanged at 4,636.

As of Feb 14, mainland China had 107,094 cases with confirmed symptoms, including both locally transmitted ones and those arriving from abroad.

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