On Friday, a handful of Covid-19 instances paralyzed the Chinese megacity of Chengdu, preventing millions from leaving their homes.
Locals in the city, a 21-million-person economic powerhouse in China’s southwest, feared a recurrence of the months-long lockdown that occurred in the eastern megalopolis of Shanghai earlier this year.
Long lines of locals awaited obligatory testing, while AFP-verified videos showed empty shop shelves.
One resident who wished to remain nameless told AFP that he believed “everyone was frantically stocking up on products” because of the food shortages in Shanghai during its shutdown.
The 25-year-old said he was in the eastern city throughout its suspension and had been “routinely stocking up” before Chengdu’s latest measures were announced.
An official announcement stated that until Sunday, each family would be permitted to send one person per day out to purchase food and other necessities, providing that individual has tested negative for Covid-19 during the preceding 24 hours.
All residents will be tested for the virus and urged not to leave the city unless it is “essential.”
Friday proved to be a calmer day on social media, with several tenants reporting they could order food to be delivered to their apartment gates and go grocery shopping.
Others reported sleeping in their offices to avoid missing work.
Initially, authorities attempted to dispel rumors of an impending lockdown, with police claiming they had apprehended a man for “creating panic” after he warned that the city could shut down.
Many on the Twitter-like platform Weibo questioned his penalty and called him a “hero” for alerting his fellow citizens on Friday.
Authorities have ordered three rounds of mass testing between Thursday and Sunday. On Friday, the city reported 150 local Covid-19 infections, 47 of which were symptomless.
China is the final big economy to adhere to a zero-Covid policy, eradicating virus outbreaks through sudden shutdowns, widespread testing, and prolonged quarantines.
Since the appearance of the rapidly-spreading Omicron strain ten days ago, all of China’s mainland provinces have reported local infections, making this task extremely difficult.
On Thursday, clubs, and cinemas in five areas of the southern tech metropolis of Shenzhen were closed, and rumors of a citywide lockdown prompted a rush on online grocery apps.
More than 80,000 tourists were stuck in a vacation city due to a Covid-19 outbreak in the southern island province of Hainan last month, prompting travelers to protest.