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Chinese cities tighten curbs on growing COVID outbreaks

China reported a third straight day of more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases nationwide on Thursday.

Chinese cities from Wuhan in central China to Xining in the northwest are doubling down on COVID-19 curbs, sealing up buildings and locking down districts in a scramble to halt widening outbreaks.

China on Thursday reported a third straight day of more than 1,000 new COVID cases nationwide, a modest tally compared with the tens of thousands per day that sent Shanghai into a full-blown lockdown earlier this year but enough to trigger more restrictions across the country.

China’s COVID caseload has remained small by global standards but its ultra-strict and disruptive containment measures this year against the highly transmissible Omicron variant have weighed heavily on the world’s second-largest economy, rattled financial markets, and angered the public.

Guangzhou, China’s fourth-biggest city by economic output and the provincial capital of Guangdong, sealed up more streets and neighbourhoods on Thursday and kept people in their homes as new areas were deemed high-risk in a COVID resurgence that has persisted into its fourth week.

Wuhan, the site of the world’s first COVID-19 outbreak in late 2019, reported only about 20 to 25 new infections per day this week. Nevertheless, local authorities ordered more than 800,000 people in one district to stay at home until October 30.

Wuhan also suspended the sale of pork in parts of the city, according to images and posts on social media, after authorities said one COVID case was linked to the local pork supply chain.

In Xining, the capital of Qinghai province, social media posts told of food shortages and price inflation for essential goods as health authorities in the city of 2.5 million people raced to contain a COVID rebound following the week-long National Day holiday in early October.

“To reduce the risk of transmission, some vegetable and fruit stores have been closed and put under quarantine,” said a Xining government official on Wednesday.

Other large cities across China including Zhengzhou, Datong and Xian have implemented new curbs this week to rein in local outbreaks.

In Beijing, the Universal Resort theme park was shut on Wednesday after at least one visitor tested positive for COVID.

China has repeatedly pledged to stick to its zero-tolerance response to COVID and implement what the authorities say are necessary measures to contain the virus.

Public anger has also surged at the continuation of the draconian zero-COVID policy.

A video shared on social media last week that showed a critically ill teenager apparently being ignored at a COVID-19 quarantine centre in Henan province received hundreds of thousands of comments and angry calls for a full investigation.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has promised to stick to the hardline zero-COVID policy despite growing public frustration and its toll on the economy.

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