China has imposed stay-at-home orders on millions more people in the country’s northeast, as it tries to tackle its biggest coronavirus outbreak in two years.
The country has largely kept the virus at bay since it brought to heel its initial outbreak in 2020 using targeted lockdowns, mass testing and travel restrictions.
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However, the Omicron strain of COVID-19 has taken hold in multiple cities across China.
Jilin, the second-biggest city in Jilin province, will lock down about 4.5 million inhabitants for three days from Monday night, local authorities announced.
More than 4,000 new infections were reported across China on Sunday, with two-thirds in Jilin province, which borders Russia and North Korea.
Changchun, Jilin province’s capital, said Saturday it would also tighten restrictions for three days.
On Saturday, China reported its first two COVID-19 deaths in more than a year. The deaths, both in Jilin province, bring the country’s coronavirus death toll to 4,638 since the start of the pandemic.
Both fatalities occurred in elderly patients and were the result of their underlying conditions, Jiao Yahui, an official with the National Health Commission, told a news briefing on Saturday.
One of them had not been vaccinated for COVID-19, she said.
Since March 11, Changchun’s nine million people have only been allowed out once every two days to buy food.
The new measures mean only medical personnel and other anti-epidemic workers will be authorised to leave their homes.
Situation in Shenzhen
Meanwhile, restrictions are being eased in the southern tech hub of Shenzhen, which locked down its 17.5 million residents a week ago.
Public transport will resume fully from Monday, alongside some administrative and business activities, local health authorities said on Sunday.
Non-essential businesses will remain closed and the downtown Futian business district is still under strict anti-COVID measures.
Shenzhen is home to some of China’s biggest tech firms, meaning any curbs on businesses come at a significant economic cost.
Tens of millions of people are currently in lockdown in other regions and authorities are rushing to create hospital beds, fearing the outbreak could put the healthcare system under strain.
East of the capital Beijing, the city of Tangshan banned traffic for 24 hours on Sunday in an effort to slow the virus’ spread, and will test all its 7.7 million people.
President Xi Jinping earlier this week urged tighter virus controls at ports of entry and stressed the need to “swiftly control local clustered outbreaks”.