THE LATEST VARIANTS of Covid-19 are posing new challenges to China’s zero-Covid policy and raising concerns that another round of lockdowns is imminent.
According to authorities, Macau has closed its 30 casinos and other non-essential businesses for at least a week after recording more than 1,500 Covid cases since the middle of June. Some 19,000 people are in mandatory quarantine.
Several casinos have been converted into temporary medical facilities, as Macau has only one public hospital.
While not formally locked down citywide, Macau, in practice, is closed.
Meanwhile, Shanghai authorities announced on Sunday that the city had identified its first case of the Omicron BA.5.2.1 mutation and that residents in several Shanghai districts are undergoing three days of double rounds of Covid testing. Mass testing in multiple districts also took place last week.
Mass testing has become the first line of defence to keep infection levels in check, with a negative test required to travel on public transport or enter certain places and those testing positive being put into mandatory quarantine.
China’s first case of the highly contagious BA.5 variant was discovered in the city in mid-May. Authorities said it was brought into the country by a passenger on a flight from Uganda. It has since been detected as far away as Xian and Dalian in Liaoning province.
Shanghai only emerged from a punishing near two-month lockdown in early June. Central government officials have said that new curbs should be targeted to reduce economic damage, but there is no indication that the huge cost of closing Shanghai has changed Beijing’s commitment to its zero-Covid. strategy.
Elsewhere, mass testing is also being conducted in several districts in Guangzhou and Xining in Qinghai province. Nanchang in Jiangxi province closed places of entertainment on Saturday.
Temporary curbs, including shutting entertainment and cultural venues, have also been imposed in Danzhou and Haikou in Hainan province and Lanzhou in Gansu. In all, some 6 million people are affected.
The town of Qinyang in Henan almost wholly locked down its nearly 700,000 residents from Sunday. One person from each household is allowed out every two days to get groceries.