In the midst of a record heat wave, the Chinese city of Chongqing has implemented widespread Covid testing in its centre, forcing millions of its citizens to endure hours-long exposure to the sun.
The southwestern megacity’s strict zero-Covid regulations to stop an outbreak are the latest burden for citizens already suffering from a devastating heat wave, a severe drought, and raging wildfires.
40 Covid-19 infections were reported in Chongqing on Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases since mid-August to 146.
On Wednesday, as the hottest temperature in Chongqing rose beyond 40 degrees Celsius, authorities ordered more than 10 million residents of the city’s central metropolitan districts to undergo mandatory Covid testing (104 degrees Fahrenheit).
Over 3,800 temporary testing locations were established throughout the core districts. Chinese social media posts show locals forming long lineups at the locations with some of them fainting from the heat.
One widely shared video depicts a roadway jam-packed with hundreds of individuals who appear to be waiting in line for Covid testing, the majority of whom are donning face masks and some of whom are fanning themselves to cool up. Wildfire smoke rises above the skyline in the background, which has a pale orange colour.
On Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, a resident of Chongqing said, “It’s 43 degrees, and the people of Chongqing are already strained to the breaking point.”
Authorities set the health codes on everyone’s mobile phones to orange to make sure inhabitants in the core districts follow the testing mandate. Only after they successfully pass the Covid tests will the codes turn green.
In China, where freedom of movement is constrained by a color-code system enforced by the government to stop the virus’ spread, having a green code is a need for going about daily life.
According to authorities, those who have not been tested will not be permitted to attend events, meetings, or business operations or enter crowded, enclosed public spaces.
Power outages and raging wildfires
The experiment took place while tens of thousands of emergency personnel battled to put out rapidly expanding wildfires that had just engulfed the city’s surrounding forests and mountains. Parts of the downtown area may see the fires at night.
Residents of downtown Chongqing tweeted images of flaming embers from the fires reaching their balconies while others complained on social media that they could smell smoke inside their apartments.
According to local authorities, wildfires have started in a number of remote locations since August 18. More than 32 million people reside within the municipality.
The wildfires are a side effect of a debilitating heat wave that has ravaged China’s southern, central, and eastern regions in recent weeks, with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius in more than 100 cities. This heat wave was China’s worst since 1961.
Due to droughts that have affected the Yangtze River, a river of vital importance to China’s economy, and other related rivers, the country’s heat wave has also resulted in increased demand for air conditioning and a decrease in hydropower capacity.
Sichuan province, which is close to Chongqing, this week prolonged brief power disruptions at companies in 19 of the 21 cities in the area. The local authority said the decision to extend the power outages through at least Thursday will guarantee home power supplies. In order to preserve electricity, Chengdu, the provincial capital, started dimming the lights in subway stations last week.
Farmers have suffered a terrible blow as a result of the power shortage after witnessing crops and cattle wilt and perish in burnt fields and hot sheds.
Through tears, the owner added, “I watch them die.” “They stopped the power even though the temperature was so high yesterday.”
Chinese authorities, including the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs and the Meteorological Administration, jointly issued an emergency notice on Tuesday requiring local authorities to lessen the impact of the country’s autumn grain production being negatively impacted by the drought and high temperatures.
“Release early warning information, boost drought-resistant water sources, and direct the development of cloud seeding,” was the instruction given to local authorities.
According to state-run CCTV, the Meteorological Administration announced Tuesday that it has sent a high-performance aircraft to Chongqing to assist with cloud seeding.
According to Chongqing weather officials, the plane will work in tandem with 107 anti-aircraft guns and 96 rockets on the ground to accurately create precipitation, as reported by CCTV.