SHENZHEN (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) – Authorities in China’s southern city of Shenzhen temporarily closed the world’s largest electronics market of Huaqiangbei and suspended service at 24 subway stations in a bid to curb an outbreak of Covid-19 on Monday (Aug 29). 

Three key buildings of the sprawling area, comprised of thousands of stalls selling microchips, telephone parts, and other components to manufacturers, will stay closed until Sept 2. 

Local community officials confirmed Monday’s closure to Reuters, while three people working there said building managers had told them to work from home.

The same official Shenzhen channels called a halt to subway services at 24 stations in the central districts of Futian and Luohu. 

On Monday, the tech hub of 18 million people reported nine symptomatic and two asymptomatic cases from testing the previous day. 

China is also enforcing lockdown restrictions in areas around the capital Beijing more intensively, and will mass test the nearby port city of Tianjin, stepping up its quest to wipe out Covid-19 ahead of a key meeting of the Communist Party’s top leaders.  

The moves come even as China’s latest wave shows signs of easing, with 1,556 new infections nationwide reported for Sunday, down from more than 3,000 less than two weeks ago. 

Despite the high cost to the Chinese economy, the country remains focused on eliminating transmission of a virus that most of the world has now accepted as endemic.  

Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei province bordering Beijing, confined residents of four major downtown districts to their homes for three days from Sunday afternoon, saying a mass testing exercise will be undertaken. The city of some 11 million also suspended subway services and halted non-essential business operations in the locked-down districts. 

Hebei province, home to many workers who commute to the Chinese capital, reported 45 Covid-19 cases for Sunday. The partial lockdown of Shijiazhuang follows the imposition of restrictions elsewhere in Hebei last week. 

Zhuozhou city bordering Beijing has been in lockdown since Tuesday, while Xianghe county issued a stay-at-home order for its 384,000 residents from Friday after finding just one unconfirmed case, going beyond the guidelines stipulated in China’s recently reviewed Covid-19 playbook.  

Hebei’s response suggests a higher level of sensitivity around the capital, as Beijing prepares to host the party congress, a once-in-five-years meeting where President Xi Jinping is due to secure a precedent-breaking third term in office. 

Mr Xi has made China’s Covid-zero policy a key tenet of his rule, saying the nation has avoided the massive death tolls of places like the US, despite the disruption caused.

Still, concern about the restrictions in Shijiazhuang are growing on Chinese social media, where several users posted information saying the city will use patrol officers and drones to ensure people are abiding by the lockdown orders and that those who don’t will be detained.