China has imposed a new series of Covid lockdowns, including in a city where workers at the world’s biggest iPhone factory clashed with police this week, as a record daily high number of coronavirus cases tests its determination to follow the rest of the world in easing pandemic restrictions. .
The National Health Commission reported 31,444 new locally transmitted Covid cases on Wednesday, the highest daily number since the coronavirus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.
The government responded by tightening Covid restrictions in cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou and ordering mass testing.
In Zhengzhou, central Henan province, where police and protesting workers at Foxconn’s iPhone factory clashed on Tuesday and Wednesday, authorities announced a five-day lockdown for some 6 million people. Residents have been ordered to stay at home and carry out daily PCR tests as part of a “devastating war” against the virus.
One worker told AFP the protests began over a dispute over promised bonuses at the Foxconn factory and “chaotic” living conditions.
Foxconn, the Taiwanese owner of the factory that employs about 200,000 people in Zhengzhou, has been desperate to keep operations running after several Covid cases forced it to lock down factories and hire new workers from across the country. bargain packages to replace the thousands who left last month. Workers said the protests began after the company changed their pay terms.
Videos online showed thousands of masked people facing lines of police in white protective suits with plastic riot shields. Police kicked and clubbed one protester after he grabbed a metal pole that was used to hit him.
Many employees accepted their paychecks from the company and went home on Thursday. Some said on social media that they had received bonuses of 10,000 yuan (£1,150) in exchange for ending the contract.
Foxconn apologized Thursday for what it called an “entry error in the computer system” and said it would guarantee the pay would be the same as promised on official recruitment posters. “Regarding the violent incident, the company will continue to communicate with employees and the government to prevent similar incidents from happening again,” the company said in a statement.
China’s strict enforcement of its “Dynamic Zero Covid” policy for nearly three years has hit its economy and created frustration among the population.
On 11 November, the government announced it would shorten quarantines and ease other restrictions, a move aimed at easing economic pressures and easing public discontent. But at the same time, senior officials warned the cadres not to disappoint.
Among the new measures, Guangzhou imposed a five-day lockdown in Baiyun district from Monday to limit the rise in cases. Residents are required to stay at home and public transport has been suspended, although areas that have not reported an infection for three consecutive days could lift the restrictions.
The government of the northeastern city of Changchun in Jilin province has urged its residents to stop non-essential movement and avoid visiting public places, restaurants and public gatherings.
Shanghai has tightened restrictions on arrivals into the city. An announcement on the city’s official WeChat account said people traveling to the city from Thursday would be tested for Covid and banned from restaurants and shopping malls, among other public places, for five days after their arrival.
Beijing has introduced new testing requirements for incoming travelers and residents. It requires a negative PCR test result within 48 hours for those who want to enter public places such as shopping malls, hotels and government buildings. Schools across the city have switched to online courses.
Although case numbers are relatively low compared to global numbers, even small outbreaks in China often lead to county and city lockdowns. Authorities this week reported China’s first Covid-19 death in six months, bringing the total to 5,232.
A Zhengzhou resident who was among those trying to buy food at the market before the lockdown said on social media platform Sina Weibo: “All the stalls were full of people and the prices skyrocketed… no one was smiling.
While China’s borders remain largely closed, the government has developed measures to ease the exit and entry process for foreign executives, a foreign ministry spokesman said.
Additional reports from the Associated Press, Agence France Presse and Reuters.