As China expands its COVID lockdowns—the country’s largest since the outbreak began—multinational corporations have paused some activities.
As officials report unprecedented numbers of cases, tens of millions of people across the country suffer restrictions, including the whole Jilin province and the technological capital of Shenzhen.
Toyota, Volkswagen, and Foxconn, an Apple supplier, are among the companies affected.
The lockdowns have prompted fears that vital supply networks will be affected.
On Tuesday, China hit a new high of over 5,000 cases, the majority of which were in Jilin.
On Monday, all 24 million residents of the province’s north-eastern region were placed under quarantine. This is the first time since the Wuhan and Hebei lockdowns at the start of the pandemic that China has restricted an entire province.
It came a day after the 12.5 million residents of Shenzhen’s southern city were placed under a five-day curfew, with all bus and subway services suspended.
Authorities in Langfang, which borders Beijing, as well as Dongguan, in Guangdong’s southern province, initiated emergency lockdowns on Tuesday.
Businesses in many of the impacted areas have been advised to close or send their staff home unless they can provide vital services such as food, utilities, or other essentials.
Foxconn, which makes Apple’s iPhones, halted operations in Shenzhen on Monday. The company’s plant in Zhengzhou, which produces the world’s largest iPhone, is still running due to the city’s exemption from the restrictions.
Due to China’s stringent zero-Covid policy, which includes swift lockdowns, mass testing, and travel bans whenever clusters arise, the country has seen relatively fewer cases of Covid.
The quick transmissibility of the Omicron variety, on the other hand, has made sticking to that strategy more difficult. China has reported more domestically transmitted cases since the beginning of the year than it did in the entire year of 2021.
In an online statement extensively disseminated on social media, top Chinese infectious disease expert Zhang Wenhong described the latest outbreaks as “the most challenging phase in the last two years of combatting COVID” and said they were still in the “early stages of an exponential surge.”