May 28, 2022
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COVID lockdowns upset the rice bowls of China’s commuter workers

COVID lockdowns upset the rice bowls of China’s commuter workers

BEIJING — When the city of Yanjiao close to Beijing was instantly plunged right into acoronavirus illness 2019 (COVID-19) lockdown final month, taxi driver Dong Tiejun was compelled to drive tons of of kilometers to keep away from roadblocks and get a passenger to Tianjin, a metropolis on the northeast coast. 

As an unlicensed, lengthy distance driver, Mr. Dong relied on a community of regulars touring out and in of Beijing by way of Yanjiao, in Hebei province simply east of the Chinese language capital. Yanjiao’s lockdown from March 13 to early April took away a lot of his earnings. 

“No one can get out of there, so who will take your taxi?” he mentioned. 

Thousands and thousands of different white- and blue-collar workers whose livelihoods rely upon unimpeded mobility between cities have confronted comparable hurdles since COVID circumstances started surging in March and the move of individuals and items between provinces was upended by journey curbs. 

Analysts at Nomura estimate 46 cities are at the moment in full or partial lockdowns involving strict mobility restrictions on native residents, affecting the lives of 343 million individuals. 

Border cities equivalent to Yanjiao have grown at a dizzying fee over the previous decade as workplace workers in Beijing seemed for reasonably priced housing close by, with tons of of hundreds crossing the Hebei-Beijing border every day earlier than COVID. 

Even after the lockdown for Yanjiao residents was lifted on April 4, border checkpoints had been clogged in the early hours of the morning and resentment at COVID curbs was palpable. 

“I come here six days a week, every time at 5:30 a.m., the bus stop is far and the checkpoint is strict, the cost of riding a scooter here is also high, I think all these measures are very inconvenient,” mentioned a Yanjiao resident surnamed Gao. 

A number of Yanjiao commuters instructed Reuters that one other burdensome measure was the “commuter pass” that anybody getting into Beijing should now acquire and constantly replace. 

The lengthy listing of paperwork wanted to acquire the move features a house owner’s ID card, a unfavorable COVID take a look at report with a 48-hour validity, proof of vaccination, and proof of employment in Beijing, amongst others. 

“I’m afraid I can’t get all of these documents,” mentioned Yan Chun, 21, who got here to Beijing searching for work after the magnificence salon she labored for in Shenzhen closed as a result of COVID. 

“I’m looking for a job, so where do I get proof of employment in Beijing?” 

Whereas main facilities like Beijing and Shanghai have maintained excessive bars for imposing stringent COVID restrictions on residents, dormitory cities in Hebei face a a lot stricter and mercurial scenario. 

Authorities in Sanhe metropolis, which consists of Yanjiao and 9 different cities, mentioned on Wednesday residents “would be restricted from entering and exiting Beijing” after “an abnormal nucleic acid test” was reported. 

Lao Yuan, 62, and his spouse left their village in Hebei 10 years in the past to work in a automotive manufacturing unit in Beijing. In current occasions, they’ve relied on every day labor markets in Songzhuang, on the outskirts of Beijing close to the Hebei border, normally incomes round 300 yuan ($46) a day. 

After the Lunar New 12 months vacation, Lao Yuan’s hometown in Hebei was locked down and his spouse who traveled there was unable to return to higher Beijing since. He now lives alone in a rented room in Songzhuang. 

At the labor markets, workers amongst the tons of who would collect round 4 a.m. each day ready for vans to take them to development websites and factories say issues have modified since the newest COVID surge. 

It’s now frequent to not discover work at Songzhuang even after a complete morning of ready, mentioned a migrant employee from Shandong province, solely giving his surname as Wang. 

“I’ve some direct connections with factory bosses, that works better now,” Mr. Wang mentioned. 

“Most people just leave by 8 a.m., if we do not get a job we just stay in our rooms resting, looking at our phones.” — Xiaoyu Yin and Eduardo Baptista/Reuters

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