Chinese officials have locked down a city of 9 million people as the Omicron variant tests its zero tolerance approach to COVID-19.
- Lockdowns and compulsory testing have been enacted to combat the spread
- For the first time the general public will be allowed to use antigen testing kits at home
- The measures show China is sticking to its zero tolerance approach
Residents of the north-eastern city of Changchun have been told not to leave their homes, with one person from each family allowed outside every two days to buy provisions.
China reported another 397 cases of local transmission nationwide on Friday (local time), 98 of them in Jilin province that surrounds Changchun, a center of the country’s auto industry.
In the entire province, cases have exceeded 1,100 since the latest outbreak first struck late last week.
Just two cases were reported within Changchun itself on Friday, bringing its total to 78 in recent days.
Testing ramped up
All residents must undergo three rounds of mass testing, while non-essential businesses have been closed and transport links suspended.
China said it would for the first time allow the general public to use COVID-19 antigen self-test kits that do not need medical workers to take samples, in a bid to augment its testing regime that has been put under pressure by Omicron.
The latest lockdowns, which also include 500,000 people in Yucheng in the eastern province of Shandong, show China is sticking to the draconian approach to the pandemic it has enforced for most of the past two years, despite some earlier indications that authorities would be implementing more targeted measures.
China’s financial hub of Shanghai said it would close all primary, middle and high schools and that students would need to shift to online classes until further notice.
Officials sacked after COVID cases confined to uni libraries
Authorities have repeatedly pledged to lock down any community where one or more cases are found under China’s zero tolerance approach to the pandemic.
Another 93 cases were confirmed in the nearby city of Jilin that bears the same name as the surrounding province.
Authorities have already ordered a partial lockdown in the city and severed travel links with other cities.
Officials of the Jilin Agricultural Science and Technology University have been sacked after a cluster of infections was reported on campus and students on social media that those who tested positive were being confined in school libraries and other buildings in poor conditions.
The school has registered 74 confirmed cases and transferred more than 6,000 people to quarantine, according to state broadcaster CCTV.
Aerial images showed students in hazmat suits lining up in the cold and dark waiting to be transferred.