Shenzhen tightens Covid-19 controls with 48-hour negative test result required to use public transport after three new cases found

  • The stricter requirements come amid growing questions about the efficiency of mass testing in dealing with the Omicron variant
  • Shenzhen was one of the first major Chinese cities to adopt regular mass testing as part of the ‘new normal’ after a mini outbreak in March

Shenzhen, the tech hub in southern China, has tightened its Covid-19 control policy, requiring a negative test result within 48 hours to enter subways and public venues, after three local asymptomatic cases were reported on Wednesday.

Starting from Friday, Shenzhen residents will need to present negative nucleic acid test results issued within 48 hours, or proof of a test taken within 24 hours, to ride the subway, use taxis and other public transport, or enter indoor premises, according to a notice issued by the local government on Thursday.

The stricter requirements, which are part of China’s dynamic-zero Covid-19 approach, come amid growing questions about the efficiency of mass testing in dealing with Omicron, which is less threatening to human health than previous variants.

Shenzhen was one of the first major Chinese cities to adopt regular mass testing as part of the “new normal” in Covid-19 control after a mini outbreak in March, a practice that was later followed by Beijing and Hangzhou. The tech hub of 17 million installed thousands of test booths and has been requiring negative test results within 72 hours to enter public venues.

The Shenzhen government did not specify how long the 48-hour negative test requirement will last.

While many countries are learning to live with Omicron, the Chinese government has maintained a strict zero-tolerance policy regarding the virus despite the growing economic and social costs.

China’s reliance on mass testing of its population to keep new outbreaks at bay has achieved only limited results in places like Beijing and Shanghai. In May, China’s health authority said it planned to set up Covid-19 testing booths within a 15-minute walking distance in all major cities, but the government later back-pedalled by saying that cities with low risk of outbreaks did not have to conduct regular mass testing.

Hefei, the capital of eastern Anhui Province, announced on Tuesday that it would suspend the free mass testing it was conducting once a week.

But Shenzhen has decided it will not take any chances. Under the new arrangement, the city will need to conduct tens of millions of additional nucleic acid tests even though it only has a handful of new cases.

Two local asymptomatic cases were reported in Shenzhen on Saturday, triggering mass testing and partial neighbourhood lockdowns in affected districts including Futian, the commercial and financial hub of the city.

Two more asymptomatic cases were found on Monday from quarantine areas, and three more were discovered after community screening on Wednesday.

According to the latest notice, Shenzhen residents are also required to scan a QR code when they enter public venues.

Author: Cheryl Heng, SCMP

You might also like