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

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 urban districts to undergo mandatory Covid tests on Wednesday, when the highest temperature in Chongqing exceeded 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).

More than 3,800 temporary testing sites were set up in the central districts. Photos on Chinese social media show residents forming long lines at the sites, with some faint in the intense heat.

A widely circulated video shows a street filled with hundreds of people apparently waiting in line for Covid tests, most wearing face masks and some fanning themselves to relieve the heat. In the background, plumes of wildfire smoke rise above the pale orange horizon.

Residents appear to line up for mandatory covid tests in Chongqing, as plumes of smoke from wildfires rise in the background.

“It’s 43 degrees, people in Chongqing are already on edge,” said a resident on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform.

To ensure that residents of the central districts comply with the testing mandate, the authorities changed the health codes on everyone’s mobile phones to orange. The codes will turn green only after they complete the Covid tests.

A green code is a prerequisite for conducting daily life in China, where freedom of movement is dictated by a government-enforced color-coding system to control the spread of the virus.

Residents who have not been tested will not be allowed to attend gatherings, gatherings or business activities, nor will they be allowed to enter crowded, closed public spaces, 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 in such high temperatures is deplorable,” he said. “This is not scientific, reasonable or legal.”

Zeng said people started lining up for tests at his residential compound early Wednesday morning but refused to take one. On Thursday, he was barred from entering a supermarket due to a code orange on his health app, he said.

“The excess of anti-Covid measures has caused us great inconvenience. A lot of my friends are upset that they are being forced to take Covid tests,” he said.

Strong wildfires and power outages

The ordeal came as thousands of first responders struggled to contain fast-spreading wildfires, which have swept through forests and mountains around the city in recent days. The flames are visible at night from parts of the city center.

On social media, residents of central Chongqing complained that they smelled like smoke inside their apartments, while others posted images of glowing embers from the fires reaching their balconies.

Since August 18, forest fires have been raging in several outlying districts, local authorities said. The municipality is home to more than 32 million people.

Forest fires rage as Chinese city of Chongqing endures unrelenting record heat wave

The wildfires are yet another side effect of a crippling heat wave, China’s worst since 1961, that has swept across the southwestern, central and eastern parts of the country in recent weeks, with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius in more than 100 cities.

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

This week, Chongqing’s neighbor Sichuan province extended temporary factory power cuts in 19 of the region’s 21 cities. Power cuts will last until at least Thursday, in a move the local government says will ensure residential power supply. Last week, the provincial capital, Chengdu, began dimming the lights at subway stations to save electricity.

The energy crisis has dealt a devastating blow to farmers, who have seen crops and livestock wither and die in scorched fields and stifling sheds.

In douyinOn the Chinese version of TikTok, the owner of a chicken farm in Sichuan posted a video showing piles of dead birds lying on the ground.

“I watch them die,” the owner said through tears. “The temperature was so high yesterday, but they cut the power.”

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

Local authorities were told to “publish early warning information, expand drought-resistant water sources, and guide cloud seeding development.”

The Meteorological Administration said on Tuesday that it had sent a high-performance aircraft to Chongqing to help carry out cloud seeding, according to state CCTV.

Meteorological authorities in Chongqing said the aircraft would coordinate with 107 anti-aircraft guns and 96 rockets on the ground to create precipitation with precision, CCTV reported.

CNN’s Simone McCarthy contributed reporting.

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