Authorities in Chengdu, southwest China, maintained strict Covid-19 lockdown measures on the city of 21 million despite a large earthquake that killed at least 65 people in the area .
Footage circulating online on Tuesday showed workers wearing top-to-bottom protective gear preventing apartment building residents from exiting through locked lobby doors after the previous day’s 6.8 magnitude quake centered in the surrounding province of Sichuan.
The quake hit a mountainous region in Luding County, which sits on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau about 200 km (125 miles) from Chengdu, where tectonic plates rub against each other.
Although it has recorded only a handful of cases, Chengdu’s lockdown is the toughest since China’s largest city, Shanghai, was placed in lockdown over the summer, prompting rare protests in person and online.
A total of 65 million Chinese in 33 cities, including seven provincial capitals, are now under varying levels of lockdown as the government discourages domestic travel ahead of national holidays.
Outbreaks have been reported in 103 cities, the highest since the early days of the pandemic in early 2020.
Most people in Chengdu are confined to their apartments or residential compounds. In the eastern port city of Tianjin, classes have been moved online after a handful of new cases were reported.
China’s authoritarian communist political system demands strict adherence to measures dictated by the central leadership overwhelmingly dominated by party leader Xi Jinping.
Local leaders, including the recently appointed Sichuan provincial party secretary, are often parachuted in from Beijing with little knowledge of local conditions and a firm mandate to carry out Xi’s dictates.
Shanghai’s ruthless and often chaotic lockdown enforcement has led to widespread complaints about shortages of food, medicine and access to healthcare. In a sign of little change, at least one district in Chengdu has even banned ordering takeout and coffee, according to a notice posted on the internet.
China has stuck to its hardline ‘zero-Covid’ policy of mandatory testing, lockdowns, quarantines and masking despite advice from the World Health Organization and moves by most other countries to reopen since then. that the virus was first detected in central China. city of Wuhan at the end of 2019.
China reported 1,499 new cases of local infection on Tuesday, most of them asymptomatic. Sichuan accounted for 138 of this total figure.
The earthquake knocked out power and damaged buildings in the historic mountain town of Moxi in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Garze, where 37 people were killed. Tents have been erected for more than 50,000 people displaced from homes made unsafe by the quake, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
State broadcaster CCTV showed rescue teams pulling a woman who appeared uninjured from a collapsed house in Moxi, where many buildings are made of wood and brick. About 150 people were reported with varying degrees of injuries.
Another 28 people were killed in neighboring Shimian county, on the outskirts of Ya’an city. State media reported 248 people injured, mostly in Moxi, and 16 others missing.
Along with the deaths, authorities reported landslides that damaged homes, caused power outages and trapped people behind a newly created lake. A landslide has blocked a rural road, leaving it littered with rocks.
The earthquake and lockdown follow a heatwave and drought that led to water shortages and power outages due to Sichuan’s reliance on hydroelectricity.
China enforces strict Covid lockdown in Chengdu despite deadly earthquake