Coronavirus COVID-19 sees 500 million people in China under lockdown
Beijing trains were almost empty on the first day ‘back to work’ for China after the extended Lunar New Year holiday.
Around 500 million people in China are currently affected by policies put in place restricting movement, to contain the COVID-19 coronavirus.
That’s more than the entire population of the United States and is equivalent to roughly 6.5 per cent of the world’s population.
As of Friday, at least 48 cities and four provinces in China have issued official notices for lockdown policies, with measures ranging from “closed-off management”, where residents of a community have to be registered before they are allowed in or out, to restrictions that shut down highways, railways and public transport systems.
Transport restrictions and official advice to stay home has dissuaded many from travelling back to work.
The Chinese virus outbreak has showed no sign of peaking, with health authorities reporting more than 5,000 new cases.
China’s National Health Commission said it had recorded 121 new deaths on the mainland on February 13, taking the accumulated total infected to 63,851 people.
The lockdowns began with Wuhan — the epicentre of the outbreak and where half the world’s confirmed coronavirus cases are.
After the city’s borders were closed on January 23 and all incoming and outgoing flights cancelled, other nearby cities in Hubei province also implemented their own policies restricting the movement of people.
But not every city or province is facing Wuhan-like restrictions.
Citizens cannot leave the cities of Wuhan, Huanggang, Ezhou and a few others in Hubei province, while Shanghai and Beijing have only put movement restrictions in place for some smaller communities such as building blocks or neighbourhoods.
Many cities have reduced public transport lines and routes, while a few have closed intra-city public transport entirely.
Across Beijing and in cities around the nation, many small shops run by out-of-towners remain locked up.
Altogether, 80.41 million people have been affected by shut bus or metro lines.
Some communities have instituted curfews or only allow people to exit and enter at particular times.
There is even a restriction where only a certain number of people from a household can leave their residence at any one time.
Such measures have had major consequences for retailers and restaurants.
A report published by the China Cuisine Association said scare over the epidemic has cost the catering sector 500 billion yuan in lost earnings during the week-long Lunar New Year holiday, with 93 per cent of restaurants shutting down operations.
China on Friday reported another sharp rise in the number of people infected with a new virus, as the death toll neared 1,400.
The Government extended the Lunar New Year holiday to keep factories and offices closed.
Cinemas, temples and other tourist sites were shut down to prevent crowds from forming. Group tours were cancelled and businesspeople told to put off travel.
China’s vast manufacturing industries cannot function without workers in factories.
But as some businesses reopen, Beijing has told anyone who still can work from home to stay there.
Some are forecasting the shutdown will have major consequences for the Chinese and global economies.
Michael Pettis, a finance professor at Peking University, recently told the ABC that China’s Government will likely nevertheless press on with a GDP target of 6 per cent.
“What we may see is GDP growth for the first quarter down substantially, but then in subsequent quarters they’ll likely significantly increase spending,” he said.
Xu Yahua, an official from China’s transport ministry, said the government expects 160 million people to start returning to their cities of residence next week.