China's tech hub relaxes COVID restrictions to restart industrial production

Shenzhen still restricts movement and crowds, so supply chains may yet splutter

The Chinese city of Shenzhen – widely billed as the tech manufacturing capital of the world – has relaxed its COVID-19 restrictions in ways the city government expects will allow industrial production to resume.

A Sunday announcement details a new regime that requires a negative COVID-19 test result from the previous 48 hours to access newly reopened public transport services, shops, and public spaces. Such venues will operate at 50 per cent capacity for the next week.

The rules were introduced after the week-long lockdown ordered on March 13 eased earlier than expected after sending a shiver across the tech world's supply chain. Shenzhen is a hub for both manufacturing and logistics.

On March 18, Shenzhen's city government announced that residents of five "zero districts" – the city has ten districts – could return to work and to public spaces, but must remain within their own district. Residents of the specified districts were also advised to "cut back on outdoor activities, visits and gatherings." Dancing with other residents remains prohibited.

That change saw manufacturers like Foxconn resume some activity in the city, but the non-zero districts remained tightly locked down — with everyone bar essential workers required to stay at home and undergo three rounds of tests for COVID-19.

Limited exemptions were offered to delivery drivers who live in the zero districts and were allowed to move among those districts, but not enter the non-zero districts.

The updated regulations announced on March 20 still restrict activity in, and travel to, some sections of the city.

Those restrictions remain in place despite new COVID cases being very low. Sunday's count was just 66 cases across Shenzhen's population of 20 million-plus residents. The 105 cases recorded on Thursday March 18 was the largest total recorded in the last week, and rather more than the 11, 27, and 66 cases recorded on the days leading up the lockdown.

China maintains a policy of eliminating COVID-19 infections whenever possible. While the nation clearly understands the way lockdowns impact its own economy – and have wider global impact too – Beijing simply will not tolerate substantial COVID-19 outbreaks. ®

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