Chongqing Covid outbreak: Chinese city ‘stretched to the limit’ as millions wait in line for tests in extreme heat

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Chongqing reported 40 Covid-19 infections on Wednesday, bringing the total to 146 cases since mid-August.

Authorities ordered more than 10 million people in the city’s central boroughs to undergo mandatory Covid testing on Wednesday, as the highest temperature in Chongqing soared above 40 degrees Celsius.

More than 3,800 temporary test locations have been set up in the central districts. Photos on Chinese social media show residents forming long lines at the sites, with some passing out in the intense heat.

A widely circulated video shows a street lined with hundreds of people apparently queuing for Covid testing, most wearing face masks and some cooling off to relieve the heat. In the background, plumes of smoke from forest fires rise above the light orange skyline.

“It’s 43 degrees, the people of Chongqing are already stretched to their limits,” said a resident on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform.

To ensure residents in the central districts adhere to the testing mandate, authorities have made health codes on everyone’s cell phones orange. The codes will not turn green until they complete the Covid tests.

A green code is a prerequisite for everyday life in China, where freedom of movement is dictated by a government-imposed color-coding system to curb the spread of the virus.

Residents who have not been tested will not be allowed to attend any gatherings, meetings or business activities, nor should they be allowed to enter crowded, enclosed public areas, according to authorities.

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

“Forcing more than 10 million people to take Covid tests at such high temperatures is deplorable,” he said. “This is not scientific, reasonable or legal.”

Zeng said people were queuing for tests at his residential complex in the wee hours of Wednesday, but he declined to take one. He was not allowed to enter the supermarket on Thursday because of an orange code on his health app, he said.

“Excessive anti-Covid measures have caused us a lot of inconvenience. Many of my friends hate being forced to take Covid tests,” he said.

Raging forest fires and power cuts

The tests came as thousands of aid workers battled to contain the fast-growing wildfires that have swept the forests and mountains around the city in recent days. The fires are visible at night from parts of the inner city.

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

Since August 18, forest fires have broken out in several remote districts, local authorities said. More than 32 million people live in the municipality.

Wildfires rage as China's Chongqing faces relentless heatwave

The wildfires are another knock-on effect of a crippling heat wave — the worst in China since 1961 — that has swept across the country’s southwest, center and east in recent weeks, with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius in more than 100 cities. .

The heat wave in China has also led to rising demand for air conditioning and reductions in hydropower capacity due to droughts that have hit the commercially critical Yangtze River and the country’s connected waterways.

This week, Sichuan Province, in addition to Chongqing, extended temporary power outages at factories in 19 of the region’s 21 cities. The power outages will last at least until Thursday, in a move that the local government says will provide power to homes. Last week, the provincial capital of Chengdu began dimming the lights in subway stations to save electricity.

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

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

“I see them die,” said the owner with tears in his eyes. “The temperature was so high yesterday, yet they cut the power.”

On Tuesday, Chinese authorities, including the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs and Meteorological Administration, jointly issued an emergency appeal, urging local authorities to reduce the impact of drought and high temperatures on the country’s autumn grain production.

Local authorities were instructed to “release early warning information, expand drought-resistant water resources and guide the development of cloud seeding.”

The Meteorological Administration said on Tuesday it had sent a powerful plane to Chongqing to assist in cloud seeding, according to state-run CCTV.

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

CNN’s Simone McCarthy contributed to the report.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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