City bordering Beijing locks down, stoking fears of Covid-19 spread

More than 7,000 residents from Zhouzhou city commute to Beijing for work. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - A city that borders Beijing has been locked down after detecting eight new Covid-19 infections, raising the risk of spread into China's capital.

Zhuozhou, in the northern province of Hebei, imposed the lockdown from Tuesday (Aug 23) and will mass test its 700,000 residents. People in the city are banned from leaving their homes, while buses and taxis are suspended and only vehicles undertaking Covid control measures are allowed to be on its streets.

While the city is relatively small, it's located about 60km southwest of Beijing and local officials estimate more than 7,000 residents commute to the capital for work.

Beijing has managed to keep its daily case tally below two digits for more than two months, with all residents getting a PCR test every three days in order to take transport and enter most venues.

But a more substantial spread would be a major test for China's Covid Zero strategy, which relies on mass testing and lockdowns to contain flareups, and risks occurring in the run up to when President Xi Jinping is expected to secure a precedent-breaking third term as leader.

Focus is also shifting to the south-western megacity of Chongqing, which had emerged as an oasis of relative normalcy in China's Covid Zero landscape.

It reported 40 new cases for Tuesday, the most since the start of the pandemic and officials have said the virus has been secretly transmitting for a long time, raising greater risk of community spread. The city has rolled out mass testing for its central districts.

Nationwide, China reported 1,641 infections for Tuesday.

The southern island province of Hainan remains the country's hotspot, with 600 cases. Elsewhere, Yiwu, the world's biggest hub for Christmas goods, is lifting its lockdown from Wednesday.

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