Authorities in Wuhan’s Jiangxia district, home to more than 970,000 people, announced on Wednesday that its major urban areas would enforce three days of “temporary control measures”.
Entertainment venues – including bars, cinemas and internet cafes – small clinics and farm produce markets have been closed; dining out and large gatherings, from shows to conferences, have been suspended; all places of worship have been closed and religious activities prohibited; while tutoring institutions and tourist attractions have halted operations, according to a government statement.
All public transport, from buses to metro services, has been suspended and residents have been told not to leave the area unless absolutely necessary.
Authorities have also identified four high-risk neighborhoods where residents are banned from leaving their homes. Four other neighborhoods have been designated as medium risk, meaning residents cannot leave their compound.
The measures aimed to “further reduce the flow of people, reduce the risk of cross-infection and achieve dynamic zero-Covid as soon as possible,” the statement said.
The sweeping restrictions came shortly after Jiangxia district authorities announced the discovery of four asymptomatic infections on Tuesday evening. Two were detected during regular driving tests, while the other two were found among their close contacts.
Meanwhile, the strict measures of instant lockdown, mass testing and strict quarantine have been used by authorities across China to contain sporadic outbreaks, in what has become known as the zero-Covid strategy.
This approach had been mostly effective in curbing Covid surges in China until this year, when the highly transmissible variant of Omicron caused the country’s largest outbreak since Wuhan.
Shanghai’s financial hub has been placed under more than two months of deadly lockdown, sparking public outcry over widespread food shortages and delayed medical care for emergency patients. Cities and towns across the country have also been subjected to varying degrees of restrictions as infections flare, with some border towns experiencing intermittent closures for months.
The shutdowns have also caused major damage to China’s economy, plunging it into the slowest quarterly growth since the pandemic began.
As much of the world has emerged from the pandemic, Chinese officials, including the country’s leader Xi Jinping, have repeatedly vowed to stick to the zero-Covid policy, citing low vaccination rates among old people.