China Covid: Millions back in lockdown as Beijing doubles down on zero-Covid

Dozens of cities across China, including Wuhan where the coronavirus was first recorded, have gone into lockdown – as the country pursues leader Xi Jinping’s zero-Covid policy.

More than 800,000 people in one district in Wuhan were told to stay at home until 30 October.

“We feel numb to it all. We feel more and more numb,” one local told Reuters.

The city of Zhengzhou, home to the world’s largest iPhone manufacturing plant, was also affected.

It comes as China reported a third straight day of more than 1,000 cases.

Earlier this month Mr Xi signalled that there would be no easing up of the zero-Covid policy, calling it a “people’s war to stop the spread of the virus”.

As of Oct 24, some 28 cities across the country were implementing some degree of lockdown measures, analysts Nomura told news agency Reuters – with around 207 million people affected in regions responsible for almost a quarter of China’s GDP, it added.

Across the country, around 200 lockdowns have been implemented in recent days – the majority of this affecting communities that have been marked as high or medium risk. Residents in different areas are subject to different rules, depending on whether they are in a low, medium or high-risk zone.

Wuhan reported up to 25 new infections a day this week, with more than 200 cases over the past two weeks.

In Zhengzhou, a “small number of employees” from Foxconn – a major manufacturer for Apple – have been “affected by the pandemic”, the manufacturer told the BBC, adding that quarantined employees were being provided with “material supplies, psychological comfort and responsive feedback”. It comes at a critical period for Apple – which is now making the new iPhone 14.

Earlier this week, in-person schooling and dining in at restaurants were suspended in the southern Chinese hub of Guangzhou – which on Thursday reported 19 new virus cases, Some neighbourhoods in the city also remain subject to various control measures.

Even further-flung regions such as Tibet have been affected, after footage emerged earlier this week showing rare large-scale protests against strict zero-Covid measures in the regional capital Lhasa.

The city has been under lockdown for nearly three months as it battles the virus – local officials on Thursday had said eight new Covid cases were reported in Lhasa.

Multiple videos on social media showed hundreds demonstrating and clashing with police. They were said to be mostly ethnic Han Chinese migrant workers. A Lhasa resident confirmed to the BBC that the demonstration had taken place in the city on Wednesday.

Though seen as relatively small outbreaks in other parts of the world, China adheres to a strict zero-Covid policy, where authorities try to wipe out outbreaks.

The adherence to the policy comes despite increasing public fatigue and anger over lockdowns and travel restrictions. The country’s economy has also taken a hit as a result – with GDP falling by 2.6% in the three months to the end of June from the previous quarter.