China’s weather agency issued the winter’s first snowstorm orange alert, the second-highest level, on Sunday while nationwide cold wave alarms fueled concerns over traffic disruptions and flu outbreaks amid rising COVID-19 cases.
The National Meteorological Centre forecast blizzards in northeastern China, with some regions getting 45 millimeters (1.8 inches) of snow over 24 hours and heavy snow across the northern part of the country.
The capital Beijing welcomed its first snow of the season 23 days earlier than normal years, while temperatures on Sunday night are expected to fall to their lowest for the period in the past decade.
A cold snap is also sweeping from Beijing to Shanghai to Guangzhou, pushing down temperatures by as much as 14 degrees (25 degrees Fahrenheit) Celsius on Sunday, the weather agency said.
The cold wave, which could increase the risk of flu, comes just as more than 20 cities in northern China reported COVID-19 cases and sporadic outbreaks in the southwestern – in Chongqing and the provinces of Sichuan and Yunnan, since mid-October.
Hundreds of thousands of people came outdoors in Beijing to enjoy snowy tourist spots, such as the Forbidden City and Universal Studios Resort, despite COVID-19 restrictions as the 300-plus members of the Communist Party’s Central Committee prepare to gather from Monday to Thursday.
Snow piling up in communities under COVID-19 lockdowns may not be moved outside the control zones, the local government-backed Beijing Daily reported.