Rising infections put China's 'zero-COVID' policy under the microscope
Strict lockdowns, movement curbs among measures enforced as authorities scramble to curb virus spike.
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China’s “zero-COVID” policy is facing a major test as the country’s daily virus figures have surged to a two-year high.
Mainland China reported 1,437 new infections, including 100 imported cases, and 906 asymptomatic cases over the past day, according to latest data released on Monday.
Over the weekend, the daily numbers spiked to as high as 1,938 confirmed infections and 1,455 asymptomatic cases.
Infections in China have grown to this level for the first time since the very beginning of the pandemic, when a strict 77-day lockdown was enforced to contain the spread of the virus.
The government has persistently trumpeted what it said was a victory in suppressing the spread of the virus in China, where official figures place the overall case tally since December 2019 at 116,902 infections, including 4,636 deaths.
The new spike, which challenges Beijing’s claims of success, has come after the Winter Olympics and Paralympics, which concluded on Sunday.
Authorities have reacted with force in a bid to break the transmission chain, including stringent lockdowns and movement curbs.
In Shanghai, a city of 24 million people, transport services have been suspended and residents barred from leaving the city as a mass testing drive is underway to find and isolate all infected people.
Shenzhen, a city in China’s southern Guangdong province home to over 17 million people, is also under lockdown, with residential communities, shops and business closed, transport suspended and a three-round citywide testing drive being carried out, state-run daily Global Times reported.
Hong Kong is also battling an alarming surge in cases, while the capital Beijing has seen the suspension of in-person classes at several schools.
Several manufacturing plants across China have halted operations due to climbing infections and preventive measures.
In the northeastern Jilin province, state-owned carmaker FAW Group suspended work at five plants until March 16.
German carmaker Volkswagen also stopped production at its facilities in Jilin’s capital Changchun, where some 9 million people remain under lockdown.
‘Cases coming from outside’
Einar Tangen, a Beijing-based analyst, told Anadolu Agency that the new spike is “linked to cases coming from outside China.”
“The outbreak in Shenzhen is likely linked to the outbreak in Hong Kong,” he said.
“The major difference between early COVID-19 and the omicron variant is that many infected carriers are asymptomatic and are not being picked up by temperature scanners. The speed of infection is quite different. Luckily, for those who have been vaccinated, the mortality is very low,” he added.
China is now going for “targeted lockdowns” and the “bubble strategy” that it successfully used at the Olympics, he said.
“More and more frequent testing is required because of the highly infectious nature of the variant. Some of the high-risk groups are receiving fourth shots,” he said.
He said China’s pandemic “strategies are based in its realities.”
“China’s success to date in controlling the virus has been based on its ability to adjust its logistical and health responses to the evolving nature of the pandemic. It has done so while leading the world in terms of economic growth,” he added.
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