China’s daily number of Covid cases climbed to its highest since the start of the pandemic, official data showed on Thursday, despite the government insisting on a zero-tolerance approach involving exhaustive lockdowns and travel restrictions. The numbers are relatively small compared to China’s huge population of 1.4 billion and the number of cases recorded in Western countries at the peak of the pandemic. But under Beijing’s strict zero-covid policy, even small outbreaks can shut down entire cities and place contacts of infected patients in strict quarantine.
The country recorded 31,454 domestic cases on Wednesday – 27,517 without symptoms – the National Health Authority said. The unrelenting push for zero Covid has created fatigue and resentment among sections of the population as the third anniversary of the pandemic approaches, sparking sporadic protests and hitting productivity in the world’s second-largest economy. Violent protests erupted at Foxconn’s sprawling iPhone factory in central China on Wednesday, with video showing dozens of people wearing hazmats wielding batons and harassing workers.
The latest figures surpass the 29,390 infections recorded in mid-April, when the city of Shanghai was under lockdown, with residents struggling to buy food and access medical care. Several cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chongqing have tightened restrictions on Covid-19 as cases rise. The capital now requires a negative PCR test result within 48 hours for those who want to enter public places such as shopping malls, hotels and government buildings, Beijing authorities said. Schools across the city have switched to online courses. The southern manufacturing hub of Guangzhou – where nearly a third of the latest Covid cases were found – has built thousands of temporary hospital rooms for patients. – “Humpy” reopening –
A series of new rules announced by the central government earlier this month appear to signal a move away from zero Covid, easing quarantine requirements for entering the country and simplifying the system for marking high-risk areas. But China has yet to approve more effective mRNA vaccines for public use, and only 85 percent of adults over 60 had received two doses of domestic vaccines by mid-August, according to health authorities.
And Shijiazhuang, a city neighboring Beijing that had been seen as a pilot project for testing reopening strategies, reversed most of its mitigation measures this week. “The road to reopening may be slow, costly and bumpy,” Ting Lu, Nomura’s chief China economist, said in a note. “A full Shanghai-style lockout could be avoided, but could be replaced by more frequent partial lockouts in increasing numbness.