Chongqing Covid outbreak: Chinese city ‘hit the limit’ as millions queue for tests in extreme heat

Chongqing Covid outbreak: Chinese city 'hit the limit' as millions queue for tests in extreme heat
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Hong Kong

China’s capital, Chongqing, rolled out mass Covid testing in its central region amid a record heat wave, leaving millions of residents stranded in the sun for hours as they battled extreme temperatures and power shortages.

The draconian zero-Covid measures imposed by the southwestern mega-city to contain an emerging epidemic are the latest hardship for residents already suffering from the crisis. a crushing heat wave, severe drought and flaming forest fires.

Chongqing reported 40 Covid-19 Wednesday’s infections brought the total since mid-August to 146.

Authorities ordered more than 10 million people in the city’s central urban districts to undergo mandatory Covid tests on Wednesday, as the highest temperature in Chongqing exceeded 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).

More than 3,800 temporary testing stations have been established in the central regions. Photos shared on Chinese social media show long queues at sites with some residents don’t faint in intense heat.

A widely circulated video shows a street where hundreds of people are waiting in line for Covid tests, most wearing face masks and some fanning themselves to escape the heat. In the background, smoke from wildfires rises above the pale orange skyline.

Residents line up for mandatory Covid testing in Chongqing as smoke from forest fires rises in the background.

“It’s 43 degrees, the population of Chongqing is reaching its limit,” said one resident on China’s Twitter-like platform Weibo.

To help residents in the central districts comply with the testing mandate, authorities have made sure everyone turns the health codes on their cellphones orange. Codes will turn green only after completing Covid tests.

Code green is a prerequisite for everyday life in China, where freedom of movement is dictated by a color-coded system implemented by the government to control the spread of the virus.

Residents who haven’t been tested won’t be allowed to attend gatherings, meetings or business activities, and people can’t enter crowded, enclosed public spaces, officials said.

Chongqing resident Zeng Meng, 42, said a message on the health code app told him to take a Covid test at midnight on Wednesday.

“Forcing more than 10 million people to undergo Covid tests at such high temperatures is pathetic,” he said. “This is neither scientific, nor reasonable, nor legal.”

Zeng said people began lining up for tests at the apartment complex in the small hours on Wednesday, but he refused to take one. On Thursday, he was barred from entering the supermarket because of a code orange on the wellness program, he said.

“Extreme anti-Covid measures have caused us great concern. “Many of my friends are unhappy about being forced to do Covid tests,” he said.

The test came as thousands struggled to contain the emergency rapidly spreading wildfires, sweeping the forests and mountains around the city in recent days. Flames can be seen from downtown areas at night.

On social media, residents in central Chongqing complained of the smell of smoke inside their apartments, while others posted pictures of embers from fires reaching their balconies.

Forest fires have broken out in many remote areas since August 18, local authorities said. More than 32 million people live in the municipality.

The wildfires are another effect of China’s worst heat wave since 1961, which has swept the southwestern, central and eastern parts of the country in recent weeks, with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius in more than 100 cities.

China’s heat wave has also led to increased demand for air conditioning and reduced hydropower capacity due to droughts hitting the country’s commercially critical Yangtze River and connecting waterways.

This week, neighboring Sichuan province of Chongqing extended temporary power cuts to factories in 19 of the region’s 21 cities. According to the local government, the power outage will continue until at least Thursday. Last week, Chengdu, the capital of the province, began to turn off the lights in subway stations to save electricity.

Giant ice cubes? Chinese residents resort to extreme measures to cool off from the heat

The energy crisis has dealt a devastating blow to farmers, who have seen crops and livestock wither and die in scorched fields and hot barns.

about DouyinOn the Chinese version of TikTok, the owner of a chicken farm in Sichuan posted a video showing piles of dead poultry lying on the ground.

“Watching them die,” said the owner through tears. “The temperature was very high yesterday, but they cut the power.”

Chinese authorities, including the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs and the Meteorological Administration, issued a joint emergency warning on Tuesday, urging local authorities to mitigate the impact of drought and high temperatures on the country’s autumn grain production.

Local authorities are tasked with “disseminating early warning information, expanding drought-resistant water sources and leading the development of cloud seeding”.

According to state-run CCTV, the Meteorological Administration said it had sent a high-performance aircraft to Chongqing to help conduct cloud seeding on Tuesday.

Meteorological authorities in Chongqing said the plane would coordinate with 107 anti-aircraft guns and 96 missiles on the ground to precisely create the precipitation, CCTV reported.

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