The main roads leading to Haizhu District were almost silent this morning.

While these thoroughfares were usually full of traffic, there were only a handful of cars.

The reason for this was the large red barricades blocking the two-lane four-lane road. Only a few cars passed. Ours, along with most of the others, have been discarded.

Beyond is a lockdown district, home to the vast majority of Guangzhou residents covid case.

The city is responsible for about a third of China total infections.

Haizhu is the epicenter of the epicenter.

Read more: COVID-19: “The situation is getting worse across China”

By another route, we were able to get closer, up to a cordon bleu.

This area was, unexpectedly, a hive of activity.

People on mopeds hung extra supplies over barriers while others stood on bollards to peek over, calling friends on the other side.

A community volunteer truck full of food was allowed entry.

Those stuck inside are allowed to leave their homes to buy food and get tested, but all other shops are closed, as are schools and offices.

It’s been like this for almost a month and it looks like people are tired.

A man waved at us from behind the barrier and said, “Film my hands reaching for freedom.

He didn’t want to tell us his name, but he wanted to tell us what this confinement looks like.

“The government told us that the confinement would last three days. Then after [that] three more, then three more, and now three more,” he said from behind the corrugated iron fence. “We’re frustrated.”

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Temporary wall closes shopping street in Guangzhou

And while there are no reports of anyone going hungry, as happened in Shanghai earlier this year, he added: “Most supplies are scarce as many places are closed and people cannot move freely.

But there is a feeling that a health crisis could well be underway. Cases are set to reach the highest number ever seen at any time during the pandemic and authorities have reported deaths for the first time in six months – three people in the past two days.

On the other side of town, a huge hospital is being built, an ominous sign of what could happen.

The government, it seems, is aware of the costs. He called last week for the measures to be “optimized” to make the response more targeted and less comprehensive.

Some cities have started experimenting with rolling back mass testing.

But in the face of a surge in cases, local leaders under pressure seem to be turning to the familiar manual of closure and control.

People line up to take COVID tests in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China.  Photo: cnsphoto via Reuters
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People pictured queuing to take COVID tests in the city

In downtown Guangzhou, for example, there are far fewer cases, but bars and restaurants have been ordered to close.

Ms. Chen, the manager of the How Rich bar, told us that they heard the news just as they finished putting on their World Cup decorations. She says that although she supports the policy, she was disappointed.

“The impact on our business is no income. We can’t work normally. As an old saying goes, ‘Stop working, stop eating.'”

Getting out of zero-COVID was always going to be incredibly difficult. There is a fine line between testing and lockdowns, or cases and deaths, in a population with such low levels of immunity.

What is clear is that zero-COVID will be tested in the days and weeks to come, as will the government’s response.

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