Shanghai authorities are rushing to trace and test visitors to the city’s Disneyland theme park after shutting the venue down as part of a wave of pandemic prevention measures across China that has also buffeted iPhone maker Foxconn.
The park was locked down on Monday after a single guest tested positive for Covid-19, in a repeat of a similar closure in late 2021.
It came in the midst of rising controversy over a lockdown in the city of Zhengzhou, where workers fled the world’s biggest iPhone factory, stoking frustration online over the country’s zero-Covid strategy.
On Tuesday, Foxconn announced a series of bonuses to persuade workers, who were trying to escape a worsening Covid-19 outbreak, to stay. The episode, which prompted the company to prepare a shift in production, highlighted the potential exposure of supply chains to positive cases in China.
Visitors to Disneyland, meanwhile, were only able to leave the park on Monday night after testing negative for Covid-19, although a handful of guests were still departing the premises on Tuesday morning. It was unclear whether Disneyland workers had been able to leave, too.
A spokesperson for Disney did not confirm the total number of people who were confined to the park but said on Tuesday it was following “government guidelines”. “The Covid testing process was expedited,” they added.
The severity of the official response to a single case reflects not only China’s commitment to its longstanding policy of eliminating all outbreaks, but the depth and efficiency of its testing apparatus that the government claims can test 1bn people a day.
Before taking a test, all citizens are required to scan a QR code on their smartphones, which is also used to record their entry into most buildings and public places.
The movement of anyone who tests positive is then traced to identify close contacts, who may be required to isolate. Testing booths have been set up on street corners across big cities.
In addition to Disneyland, the person also visited an Italian restaurant and a noodle shop in the city, authorities said. A total of 706 people were quarantined as a result, and 67,715 “related personnel” were in line for testing.
On Tuesday, there were signs of local communities and schools taking measures to test people who had been to Disneyland since late last week.
In Beijing, the Four Seasons hotel remains cordoned off with men in white personal protective equipment guarding the entrances and a Chinese Red Cross tent set up in the driveway.
The hotel was locked down last week after a visit from a Covid-positive individual. “The government has taken control of the hotel,” said a receptionist. A guard at the site said about 40 guests were locked in their rooms.
Analysts had speculated that the Chinese Communist party congress, which concluded last week, would lead to a relaxation of the country’s strict and globally unique pandemic curbs, which have put immense pressure on an economy already hit by a faltering property sector.
But Beijing’s top epidemiologist declined to provide any timetable to ease the measures, and President Xi Jinping praised the policy at the congress, saying China had “protected the people’s health and safety to the greatest extent possible” and “made tremendously encouraging achievements in both epidemic response and economic and social development”. Public criticism of the strategy is non-existent within the country.
Ting Lu, chief China economist at Nomura, estimated last week that 28 cities were implementing lockdown measures, affecting more than 200mn people. He expects “the lockdown situation to worsen due to the winter season and more infectious variants”.
Shanghai was locked down from March to June in the most striking commitment to zero-Covid since the sealing off of Wuhan in 2020. Authorities also responded quickly to a rise in cases during the party congress, where Li Qiang, the official who oversaw Shanghai’s lockdown, was promoted to China’s highest political echelon.
Additional reporting by Wang Xueqiao in Shanghai