Authorities scramble to cut infections after announcing easing of strict curbs
HONG KONG — China is locking down parts of Beijing and other cities as it battles a spiraling COVID crisis with infections near record levels, less than two weeks after saying it would ease its controversial virus curbs.
The capital has shuttered shopping malls, parks and museums, locking down some districts, as officials warned that the city was fighting its “most complicated and severe” virus flare-up. Millions in Guangzhou have also been ordered home, after unrest over curbs broke out this month in the southern manufacturing hub.
An official who spearheaded China’s strict zero-COVID policy visited Chongqing this week to urge that the sprawling southwestern city clamp down on its rising case rate.
The fresh measures come as daily cases hit 29,157 confirmed infections, just shy of a pandemic record set in April when China’s financial capital Shanghai was plunged into a grueling two-month lockdown that sparked public anger, and heaped more damage on an economy reeling from some of the world’s strictest virus measures.
Tensions reportedly erupted at the world’s biggest iPhone plant in the city of Zhengzhou, where hundreds of workers protested over pay as they were surrounded by people in hazmat suits with some carrying sticks in scenes broadcast Wednesday on short-video platform Kuaishou.
The videos purportedly from the site — where scores of workers previously staged walkouts over strict virus curbs that dented production — could not be verified. Apple supplier Foxconn, which runs the huge factory, declined to comment.
Meanwhile, Shanghai, where an auto industry event was abruptly cancelled Wednesday over rising infections, has also ordered the closure of some venues and ramped up testing.
In far western Xinjiang, ethnic minority Uyghurs and other residents of several cities have been under mass lockdown for more than three months.
China’s infection rates remain low by global standards, but the government has vowed to press on with a strategy to strike hard at even small outbreaks to prevent deaths. Beijing, however, announced this month that it would ease some restrictions, including cutting the length of a mandatory quarantine period on arrival.
National officials are scrambling to dismiss suggestions that China is set to abandon its zero-COVID policy, leaving it as the last major economy to enforce strict curbs as most countries move to treating COVID as an endemic illness.
That has put provincial governments in a tricky position as they look to balance easing curbs as cases soar and the country records its first official virus-linked deaths since May.
RELATED: Beijing’s Covid cases hit high as outbreak spirals
Beijing posted a record number of new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, with the Chinese capital hunkering down under a tightening chokehold of restrictions that have sent schools back online, closed many restaurants, and forced employees to work from home.
More than 28,000 new infections were reported nationwide — nearing the record high since the Covid-19 pandemic began in early 2020 — with Guangdong province and the city of Chongqing logging over 16,000 and 6,300 cases respectively, health authorities said.
New cases in Beijing have also jumped in recent days, more than doubling from 621 on Sunday to Tuesday’s 1,438 — a pandemic record for the city.
The last major economy still welded to a zero-tolerance Covid policy, China enforced snap lockdowns, mass testing and quarantines to control outbreaks to great success in the earlier stages of the pandemic.
But the latest spiraling outbreak is testing the limits of that playbook, with officials keen to avoid citywide lockdowns like Shanghai’s two-month ordeal in April, which marred the finance hub’s economy and international image.
By: Miss Cherry May Timbol – Independent Reporter