Zhengzhou, the iPhone manufacturing hub, has locked down one of its most-populated districts to tame a COVID-19 flare-up, with creeping restrictions throughout China underscoring the constant threat of disruption companies face while the country sticks to “zero COVID.”
Almost 1 million residents of Zhongyuan District were ordered to stay at home starting yesterday, except for when they need to undergo COVID-19 testing, and non-essential businesses have been shut, a government notice said. The wider restrictions follow the lockdown of some neighborhoods last week, catching many people by surprise after officials had said there would not be a citywide lockdown.
IPhone maker Foxconn Technology Group’s plants are not located in the district that has been locked down. Representatives for the company did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Bloomberg News.
The city in Henan Province reported six new local cases for Sunday, down from a recent peak of 40 on Oct 9. Nationwide, cases declined to 697, the lowest in two weeks, as outbreaks in Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang came under control. Beijing posted 13 new cases, and Shanghai had 32.
China is sticking to the “zero COVID” pillars of lockdowns and mass testing to tame its biggest flare-up in two months, despite the heavy cost.
The policy has dragged on growth in the world’s second-biggest economy and roiled global supply chains as important manufacturing hubs — from vehicles to phones and Christmas trees — contend with the disruption of shutdowns and reopenings.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) on Sunday signaled no looming change to the approach, disappointing investors who had hoped for some signs of loosening. During a speech opening the twice-a-decade National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing, he said the strict rules protect people’s lives, although Xi avoided mentioning the economic toll.
Economists surveyed by Bloomberg predict growth of just 3.3 percent this year, the second-weakest pace in more than four decades.
The stringent COVID-19 curbs have also been stoking public discontent. Censorship went into overdrive late last week, with words such as “Beijing” and “bridge” restricted on social media platforms like Sina Weibo after two banners criticizing Xi and zero COVID were displayed on a bridge in the capital.
One read: “We want food, not PCR [polymerase chain reaction] tests. We want freedom, not lockdowns and controls.”
While China’s most important cities have so far avoided large-scale lockdowns, officials have instead been quietly halting a growing list of activities.
Several schools in Shanghai have suspended in-person classes as the fear of infection spread grows, according to parents and social media posts. The port city of Tianjin last week announced a lockdown of one district and the southern megacity of Guangzhou shut schools in one area.