BEIJING – When the city of Yanjiao near Beijing suddenly sinksCoronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Last month, in a lockdown, taxi driver Dong Taizun was forced to drive hundreds of kilometers to avoid roadblocks and get passengers to Tianjin, a metropolis on the northeast coast.
As an unlicensed, long-distance driver, Mr. Dong relied on a network of regular travelers in and out of Beijing via Yanjiao in Hebei Province, just east of the Chinese capital. From March 13 to early April, Yanxiao’s lockdown took away much of its revenue.
“No one will be able to get out of there, so who will take your taxi?” He said.
Millions of other white- and blue-collar workers whose livelihoods depend on uninterrupted mobility in cities have faced similar hurdles since COVID cases began to rise in March and the flow of people and goods across the provinces has been hampered by travel disruptions.
Nomura analysts estimate that 46 cities are currently in complete or partial lockdown with strict mobility restrictions on local residents, affecting the lives of 343 million people.
Border towns like Yanjiao have grown exponentially over the past decade as Beijing office workers look for affordable housing nearby, where thousands of people cross the Hebei-Beijing border every day before COVID.
Even after lifting the lockdown for Yanjiao residents on April 4, border checkpoints were stuck in the early hours of the morning and frustration at stopping the cove was evident.
“I come here six days a week, every time at 5:30 am, the bus stops are far away and the checkpoints are tight. The cost of driving a scooter here is too high. I think all these arrangements are very inconvenient,” said Gao, a resident of Yanjiao.
A number of Yanxiao commuters have also told Reuters that another balanced measure is the “passenger pass” which Beijing entrants must now receive and constantly update.
The long list of documents required to obtain a pass includes the homeowner’s ID card, a negative COVID test report with 48-hour validity, proof of vaccination, and proof of employment in Beijing.
“I’m afraid I can’t get all these documents,” said Ian Chun, 21, who came to Beijing to look for work after working at a beauty salon in Shenzhen because of Kovid.
“I’m looking for a job, so where can I find proof of employment in Beijing?”
While major centers such as Beijing and Shanghai have maintained high bar for imposing stricter COVID restrictions on residents, Hebei’s dormitory cities have faced more stringent and paradoxical situations.
Authorities in Sanhe, which is made up of Yanxiao and nine other cities, said on Wednesday that residents would be “barred from entering and leaving Beijing” after reports of “abnormal nucleic acid tests” were reported.
Lao Yuan, 62, and his wife left their village in Hebei 10 years ago to work in a car factory in Beijing. In recent times, they rely on the daily labor market in Songzhuang, on the outskirts of Beijing near the Hebei border, earning about 300 yuan ($ 46) a day.
After the Lunar New Year holiday, Lao Yuan’s hometown of Hebei was locked, and his wife, who traveled there, has not been able to return to greater Beijing since. He now lives alone in a rented house in Songzhuang.
In the labor market, hundreds of workers who gather around 4 a.m. every day for vans to take them to construction sites and factories say the situation has changed since the latest Kovid wave.
A migrant worker from Shandong Province said it was now common to find work in Songzhuang after waiting all morning, only to be given the title Wang.
“I have some direct contact with factory officials, which works better now,” Mr Wang said.
“Most people leave by 8am. If we don’t get a job, we just sit at home and rest and look at our phones.” – Xiaoyu Yin And Eduardo Baptista / Reuters