China imposes lockdowns as COVID-19 surges after holidays

BEIJING — Chinese cities imposed new lockdowns and travel restrictions after the number of new daily COVID-19 cases tripled during a week-long holiday ahead of a major Communist Party meeting in Beijing next week.

The latest shutdown started on Monday in the northern city of Fenyang China‘s Shanxi province, after a preliminary positive case was found in citywide tests the day before, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

In the nearby Inner Mongolia region, the capital Hohhot announced that outside vehicles and passengers would be banned from entering the city from Tuesday. Hohhot has recorded more than 2,000 cases over about 12 days.

China is one of the few places in the world that is still taking strict measures to prevent the disease from spreading. The long-ruling Communist Party is particularly concerned as it tries to present a positive image of the nation in the run-up to a once-in-five-years party congress that starts on Sunday.

Travel was down during an annual national day that began Oct. 1, when authorities advised against people leaving their cities and provinces. But the number of new daily cases has still grown to around 1,800 from 600 at the start of the break.

Leaders don’t want a major outbreak to make a fool of Congress, but their strict “zero COVID” approach has taken a financial toll, especially on small businesses and temporary workers. Many in China hope that the pandemic policy will ease after meeting.

Outbreaks have been reported across the country, with the largest in Inner Mongolia and the Xinjiang region in the far west. Both have registered several hundred new cases per day.

Both Shanghai, where residents endured prolonged lockdowns earlier this year, and the national capital Beijing have seen small but growing numbers of cases. Two Shanghai districts announced closures of movie theaters and other entertainment venues on Monday.

Taking a free virus test several times a week has become the norm for many Chinese, with Beijing and other cities requiring a negative test result within 72 hours to enter parks, office buildings, shops and other public places.

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This article has been corrected to say that two Shanghai districts announced the closings of movie theaters and other entertainment venues on Monday, not last week.

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