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BEIJING — Two of China’s biggest cities, Shenzhen and Shanghai, imposed strict travel restrictions for their residents on Sunday as a coronavirus outbreak continued to spread across much of mainland China.
While China still has far fewer cases than most countries, the daily number of known infections has accelerated rapidly. The country’s National Health Commission reported 3,122 new cases on Sunday, down from 1,524 on Saturday and 1,100 on Friday. The average number of new cases has reached 1,370 per day over the past week, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.
Shenzhen, a Hong Kong border city that is the hub of China’s tech and electronics manufacturing industries, announced a lockdown for the next seven days on Sunday evening. All non-essential workers must stay at home, adults must undergo three PCR tests in the next few days and buses and metros are stopped. Supermarkets, farmers’ markets, pharmacies, medical facilities and express delivery services will be allowed to remain open.
A lockdown in Shenzhen could further disrupt global supply chains, as Shenzhen has one of the biggest ports in the world. An outbreak in Shenzhen late spring last year stalled port operations and caused a sharp rise in global shipping rates, which helped push up the prices of imported goods in the United States and elsewhere.
Since then, China has tried to keep ports operating during outbreaks by forcing many port workers to live on the docks for weeks. Sunday night’s municipal shutdown order did not specifically exempt port workers, but port management companies have argued in the past that their workers were essential.
Both Shenzhen and Shanghai have banned residents from leaving either city over the weekend unless clearly necessary, and even then only with a negative test result. PCR test. Shanghai also halted intercity bus service, but did not order a citywide lockdown.
Shenzhen reported 66 cases on Sunday, all but six with symptoms already apparent. By comparison, Shanghai reported 65 cases on Sunday, only one of which was already showing symptoms. All infected people are immediately hospitalized in China, sometimes in quickly erected makeshift hospitals, in order to isolate them and limit the spread.
Shenzhen had stepped up prevention and control measures in February, including measures to prevent truckers from bringing infections into mainland China from Hong Kong, where there is a huge outbreak and deaths have risen. Despite these efforts, many users of Weibo, the Chinese social media network, have blamed Hong Kong for the recent outbreak in Shenzhen because the city has not implemented the kind of lockdown measures seen in mainland China. Beijing reported seven cases on Sunday, only one of which was asymptomatic.
Shanghai Disneyland announced that starting Sunday, it was halting all theatrical performances and requiring all visitors to show negative results of a PCR test taken within the previous 24 hours.
The most severe outbreaks in mainland China at present are occurring in cities in the northeastern province of Jilin, which borders North Korea and Russia. Two mayors were removed from office on Saturday in the province, in the hard-hit city of Jilin and in Jiutai district of Changchun city.
Almost half of the cases across China that were announced on Sunday were in people who initially showed no symptoms. China has a very high vaccination rate, except among the elderly. China attributed the high number of asymptomatic cases to the prevalence of the highly contagious variant of Omicron. A few cases of the Delta variant have also been detected near Chinese borders in recent weeks.
Claire Crazy contributed to the research.