A third Chinese city has been placed under strict lockdown as the country tries to contain a local outbreak of Covid-19, local officials said on Tuesday.
This brings the total number of people now confined to their homes in China to nearly 20 million, with the Beijing Winter Olympics only three weeks away.
Anyang municipal government said all 5.5 million residents of Anyang city in central Henan province are not allowed to leave their homes, while shops, restaurants and factories remain closed.
More than 4,000 students and staff of an Anyang school have been placed in government-run quarantine centers after nine people tested positive for the virus, local officials said.
A total of 84 Covid-19 cases have been reported in the city since the detection of two local Omicron infections on January 8.
China reported 110 new locally symptomatic COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, the National Health Commission (NHC) said in a statement. China counts asymptomatic cases separately.
Strict lockdown: Anyang is the third Chinese city after Xi’an in northwestern Shaanxi province and Henan, too, to impose a complete COVID lockdown.
On 23 December sanctions were imposed on Xi’an’s 13 million residents. In those days and weeks, complaints of food shortages and reports of patients being denied medical care shook the country.
On January 2, Yuzhou, home to 1.2 million people, was placed under lockdown after three asymptomatic cases were reported.
According to the NHC, Yuzhou reported 74 symptomatic local cases on Monday, the largest current outbreak in the country.
Meanwhile, 29 residential communities in Tianjin city are under lockdown after Omicron was detected on Saturday in at least two residents – China’s first reported community spread of the highly communicable version.
Tianjin reported 21 infections on Monday – 11 symptomatic and 10 asymptomatic – taking the total number of its current outbreak to 53.
The city of 14 million is located just 130 kilometers (80 mi) southeast of Beijing, where the Winter Olympics begin on 4 February.
Zero-Covid Strategy: China is one of the only places in the world that is still aiming to eliminate COVID-19 within its borders.
But the closure residents’ despair underscores the growing challenge facing its zero-Covid policy, which relies on a playbook of massive testing, widespread quarantines and snap lockdowns to seal any resurgence of the virus.