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

Chongqing reported 40 COVID-19 infections on Wednesday, bringing the total to 146 cases since mid-August.

Authorities on Wednesday ordered more than 10 million people in the city’s central urban districts to undergo mandatory COVID testing after the highest temperature in Chongqing exceeded 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).

Over 3,800 temporary testing sites were set up in central districts. Photos on Chinese social media show residents forming long lines at the sites, some with passing out In the scorching heat.

A widely circulated video shows a street filled with hundreds of people apparently awaiting Covid tests, most of them wearing face masks and some fanning themselves to relieve the heat. are. In the background, plumes of smoke from wildfires rise above the yellow-orange horizon.

“It’s 43 degrees, the people of Chongqing are already stretched to the limit,” said a resident on China’s Twitter-like platform Weibo.

To ensure that residents of central districts comply with the testing order, officials have changed the health codes on everyone’s mobile phones to orange. The codes will turn green only after they complete the COVID test.

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

According to officials, residents who have not been tested will not be allowed to attend gatherings, meetings or business activities, nor can they enter crowded, enclosed public places.

Fierce forest fires and power cuts

The trial comes as thousands of emergency responders are battling to contain fast spreading forest fire, which has swept away the forests and mountains around the city in recent times. Flames could be seen from some parts of the city during the night.

On social media, residents of the city of Chongqing complained of the smell of smoke inside their apartments, while others posted pictures of embers burning on their balconies.

Local officials said forest fires have broken out in several outlying districts since August 18. The municipality is home to over 32 million people.

The wildfires are another knock-on effect of a severe heat wave – China’s worst since 1961 – that has swept the country’s southwestern, central and eastern parts of the country in recent weeks, with temperatures in more than 100 cities 40 °C has been exceeded.

China’s heat wave has also brought increasing demand for air-conditioning and a reduction in hydropower capacity due to a drought affecting the country’s commercially important Yangtze River and associated waterways.

This week, Sichuan province, neighboring Chongqing, imposed temporary power cuts at factories in 19 of the region’s 21 cities. The power cuts will last until at least Thursday, in a move the local government said will ensure residential electricity supply. Last week, the province’s capital, Chengdu, began dimming the lights in subway stations to save electricity.

The power shortage has dealt a devastating blow to farmers, who have seen crops and livestock die and die in scorched fields and scorched sheds.

Feather doyinThe Chinese version of TikTok, the owner of a chicken farm in Sichuan, posted a video showing piles of dead chicken on the ground.

“I see them dying,” said the owner with tears. “Yesterday the temperature was so high, yet they cut off the power.”

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

Local officials were asked to “issue early warning information, expand drought-resistant water sources, and guide the development of cloud seeding”.

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

According to the CCTV report, weather officials in Chongqing said the aircraft would coordinate with 107 anti-aircraft guns and 96 rockets to accurately land rain.

CNN’s Simone McCarthy contributed reporting.