Taipei, Taiwan — The southern Chinese metropolis of Guangzhou on Monday locked down its largest district as it tries to contain a major COVID-19 outbreak, suspending public transport and requiring residents to present a negative test if they want to leave their homes.
The outbreak challenges China’s attempt to take a more focused approach to its zero-COVID policy as it faces multiple outbreaks caused by rapidly spreading omicron variants. China is the only major country in the world still trying to curb virus transmission through strict lockdown measures and mass testing.
The Baiyun District, home to 3.7 million people in Guangzhou, also suspended in-person classes for schools and closed universities. The measures are intended to last until Friday, the city announced.
“The epidemic situation is serious and complex and difficult to control,” said district deputy chief Chen Yongjun at a news conference in Guangzhou, according to a report in the provincial state media.
Meanwhile, the Beijing capital reported two more COVID-19-related deaths. On Sunday, the city reported China’s first COVID-19 death in nearly six months.
Beijing officials announced at a news conference that starting Tuesday, anyone arriving from outside the city must stay at home for three days and test negative for three days in a row before being allowed out, state broadcaster CCTV said in an online report.
While critics have questioned China’s COVID-19 numbers, particularly the death toll, the intensive approach to containing infections has prevented massive outbreaks and kept the number of new daily cases lower than in many other countries.
Earlier this month, China announced it was easing some of its ‘zero COVID’ policies, such as suspending flights from airlines that had carried a certain number of positive passengers. It also reduced the time required in centralized quarantine for international arrivals from seven to five days.
The relaxation of some measures was an attempt to make the policy more “scientific and precise,” said Lei Haichao, the deputy director of the National Health Commission.
Larger cities are still sticking to some of the tested measures, albeit in a more fragmented way than shutting down an entire city, which they had done before.
Shijiazhuang, a city in northern Hebei province, is testing all residents in six districts. In Beijing’s Haidian district, home to the city’s tech center and top universities, authorities announced on Sunday night that in-person classes at primary and secondary schools were canceled.
Guangdong province, home to Guangzhou, reported the highest number of new cases on Monday with 9,085 out of a total of 27,095 cases nationwide.
News assistant Caroline Chen of the Associated Press in Guangzhou, China, contributed to this report.
This story corrects that recent deaths are the first in China in nearly six months, not the first in Beijing in more than six months, and that easing measures were announced earlier this month.