Hangzhou Quarantines Thousands as COVID-19 Dampens Spring Festival
29 Jan, 2022  |  Source:Sixth Tone  |  Hits:2038

Thousands of residents in Hangzhou have been placed in centralized quarantine just days ahead of the Spring Festival, as the eastern Chinese city reported dozens of new coronavirus infections this week.

The provincial capital of Zhejiang had logged 42 infections as of Saturday afternoon since the first person tested positive for the virus earlier this week, according to local health authorities. On Friday, the city reported nearly half of the country’s 37 confirmed cases.

The city’s new infection cluster was traced to a local catering equipment company, Welbilt, before it spread to the community, authorities said during a press conference Friday. They added more than 9,000 people from two residential communities near the company were currently in quarantine, adding more infections were likely to be detected in the coming days.

Chen, a mother of an 18-month-old child, told Sixth Tone they waited for three hours early Friday morning to be checked into a quarantine hotel. Before the cases were detected, the 26-year-old was planning to travel home to the nearby city of Wenzhou for the Spring Festival.

“It was all of a sudden … I was nervous because it’s my first quarantine experience and a bit worried about my child not adapting to living in a hotel room,” Chen said. “Now we’ll just video call other family members to celebrate the festival.”

A provincial health official said preliminary virus tracing indicated that a Welbilt employee was infected “through an object” before it transmitted among other employees and then to the community. He added that four of the 11 samples collected from the company’s “unused imported goods” tested positive for Omicron.

“(The quarantine) is mainly due to the strong infectiousness of Omicron and the relatively high number of close contacts in the two communities, which are commercial and residential complexes,” a local government official said Friday.

On Thursday, a city official urged Hangzhou residents to stay put and minimize movement for the Spring Festival celebrations, adding “necessary travel” wasn’t, however, restricted. The holiday rush started with a tense mood, as local authorities across the country have implemented stringent virus prevention measures.

The outbreak in Hangzhou has so far spread to at least four other provinces, including Henan, Hubei, Jiangxi, and Guizhou, as some Welbilt employees had returned to their hometowns after commencement of the company’s Spring Festival break on Jan. 19, according to media reports. Meanwhile, Omicron infections have been found in at least 10 other cities in China and driven the global increase in cases.

On Saturday, some Hangzhou residents also found their mobile health code turned from green to orange, prohibiting access to public transportation and other services amid the possibility they could have been infected. Local officials said they would get their green health code after testing negative for COVID-19 for three consecutive days.