Chinese cities issue travel warnings after Fujian COVID-19

STR / AFP

China's COVID-19 outbreak in Fujian province, which has reported 152 local cases in five days, has prompted cities in other parts of the country to issue travel warnings ahead of major holidays, though state media warn against imposing blanket travel curbs.

The travel warnings come ahead of the week-long National Day holiday starting on October 1, a major tourist season, as well as a shorter Mid-Autumn Festival holiday next week.

The last outbreak in July-August, which saw strict movement restrictions in some cities, hit tourism, hospitality and transportation sectors and significantly slowed retail sales growth.

Even though all new local cases in China since September 10 were reported in southeastern Fujian province only, the northeastern city of Jilin, as well as Maoming and Guangzhou in the south, have advised people against non-essential trips out of their provinces. Shanxi and Heilongjiang provinces have also made similar advisories.

The cities of Chifeng and Hohhot in the northern autonomous region of Inner Mongolia have advised residents to stay put during the holidays, while Xian in Shaanxi province told residents to avoid leaving town for unnecessary reasons.

But state tabloid Global Times said in an editorial on Wednesday that local officials should not casually advocate blanket orders to stay put or turn such advocacy into a requirement.

"We need to gradually enhance the accurate efficiency of our dynamic zero-case route," the newspaper said.

"We should avoid a complete halt on a large scale. We have to strive for early detection of each outbreak. We also need to make sure that we can contain it faster so that it will cause less harm to the society."

Julian Evans-Pritchard, senior China economist at Capital Economics, said China's services sector was expected to rebound strongly from August, but efforts to contain the Fujian outbreak may disrupt the upcoming holidays, a key period for consumption.

He also warned of a risk of fresh disruptions to supply chains since Fujian is a major trade hub.

CONTAGION RISKS

The National Health Commission said on Wednesday that 50 new locally transmitted cases were reported for September 14, compared with 59 infections a day earlier. All of them were in Fujian.

That brings the total number of local infections in the three Fujian cities of Putian, where the outbreak began, Xiamen and Quanzhou to 152.

About 30,000 people travelled from Putian to other provinces from August 26 to September 10, state television reported on Monday citing estimates from health authorities, stirring concerns of contagion.

Zeng Shidian, director of Disease Control and Prevention Centre in Wenzhou, in Zhejiang province north of Fujian, was cited as saying in local media that there is a "high" risk of the city seeing some imported cases from Putian and other parts of Fujian due to the movement of people and goods.

Wenzhou is urging its residents not to travel to Fujian during the upcoming holidays. The city said on Tuesday it will close indoor entertainment venues for half a month.

As of September 14, mainland China had recorded 95,413 confirmed cases.

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