China lifts weeks-long lockdown on southwest Chengdu

Millions of people in the Chinese megacity of Chengdu emerged on Monday from a coronavirus lockdown that closed schools, businesses and forced residents to stay home for more than two weeks.

With a population of 21 million, southwest China’s Chengdu is the largest Chinese city to shut down since global finance hub Shanghai imposed a strict two-month lockdown in April, leaving many residents scrambling for food.

China is the last key economy welded to a zero-COVID strategy and officials are under pressure to curb virus flare-ups swiftly ahead of a key political meeting in mid-October.

“With the joint efforts of the whole city, the epidemic has been effectively controlled,” the Chengdu government said in a statement.

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Government departments, public transport services, and companies were able to resume work on Monday after shutting down on September 1.

Chengdu will continue to conduct mass testing, and anyone who wants to enter a public area or take public transport will require a negative COVID test result within 72 hours, similar to the rules in other large cities including Beijing and Shanghai.

Schools will reopen in an “orderly manner” and returning students will be strictly tested, the statement said.

Gyms, swimming pools, mahjong clubs, and other indoor entertainment venues must all check whether patrons have a negative test result within 48 hours.

No new cases were reported in the city on Monday.

During the strict lockdown, some residents confined to their homes could not even flee when a strong earthquake in a nearby part of Sichuan province reverberated through the city earlier this month.

Chengdu will host the world team table tennis championships at the end of September in a “closed-loop” bubble that will be China’s first international sports event since the Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics in February and March.

Several other cities – including the southern tech hub of Shenzhen and Guiyang in south China, where Apple’s China data center is located – have all had selective lockdowns and travel restrictions in recent weeks as officials rushed to curb mini-outbreaks.

Last month, travelers in the southern island province of Hainan protested after more than 80,000 tourists were stranded in a resort city because of a COVID-19 flare-up.

China reported 807 new domestic infections on Monday, the majority of which were asymptomatic, according to the National Health Commission. As of September 18, mainland China confirmed 248,326 cases with symptoms.

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