Following the report of six local instances of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the Chinese city of Lanzhou has been placed under extreme lockdown. Residents in the four-million-strong city are now required to stay at home and only leave for needed supplies and medical situations. Three cases were also reported in Beijing, the capital. This follows the suspension of offline classes for primary and secondary school students the day before. Within the city, bus and taxi services have been suspended, and more than 70 trains in and out of the city have halted.
The latest outbreak in the Asian country is thought to link to the Delta variety, and tens of cases have been reported every day for the past several days. While the numbers are small (tens of thousands of new instances per day in the US and the UK), China has taken a strict zero-COVID strategy, implementing lockdown and limits before cases become unmanageable. The Winter Olympics will be held in Beijing and Xingtai in just a few months, and all eyes will be on China to watch how the events play out, considering the substantial restrictions witnessed in the Tokyo Olympics this summer.
As a spate of cases raises fears of a bigger epidemic, parts of northern China are prepared for additional COVID-19 restrictions, with three areas mandating lockdowns, several schools suspending classes, and an aerospace firm delaying work on a rocket project. After the city of Erenhot and a division called Ejina Banner barred people from leaving amid local outbreaks, Alxa Left Banner, a small administrative division in the Chinese region of Inner Mongolia, announced late Wednesday that it had imposed a lockdown and would put its 180,000-strong population to the test. The lockdowns are minor in comparison to the one that occurred in early 2020 in Wuhan, a much larger and denser metropolis.
The current cluster, which primarily affects northern and western China, has reached Beijing and the neighboring Hebei province, where officials have pledged strict anti-virus measures as they ramp up preparations for the 2022 Winter Olympics, which will take place in February. The one local case recorded on Oct. 19 in Beijing was the first since August.
The city of Xingtai in Hebei, approximately a six-hour drive from Zhangjiakou, which will co-host the Games with Beijing, reported two local asymptomatic illnesses on Oct. 20. China classifies asymptomatic infections separately from verified cases. In northwestern Gansu province, where nine local confirmed cases have been recorded in the last week, offline lessons have been canceled in elementary and secondary schools in the provincial capital of Lanzhou, as well as in one county in Jiuquan city. Although no local cases have been discovered in Jiuquan, where the government often launches rockets, authorities have banned cultural events such as exhibitions.