China’s Daily COVID Cases Highest Since Pandemic Began

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“The path to reopening may be slow, costly and bumpy,” Ting Lu, chief China economist at Nomura


China’s daily COVID
cases have climbed to the highest since the pandemic began, official data
showed Thursday, despite the government persisting with a zero-tolerance
approach involving grueling lockdowns and travel restrictions.

The numbers are
relatively small when compared with China’s vast population of 1.4 billion and
the caseloads seen in Western countries at the height 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 into strict quarantine.

The country recorded
31,454 domestic cases — 27,517 without symptoms — on Wednesday, the National
Health Bureau said.

The unrelenting
zero-COVID push has caused fatigue and resentment among swathes of the
population as the pandemic’s third anniversary approaches, sparking sporadic
protests and hitting productivity in the world’s second-largest economy.

On Wednesday, violent
protests erupted at Foxconn’s vast iPhone factory in central China, with video
showing dozens of hazmat-clad personnel wielding batons and chasing employees.

The latest figures
exceed the 29,390 infections recorded in mid-April when megacity Shanghai was
under lockdown, with residents struggling to buy food and access medical care.

Several cities
including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chongqing have tightened COVID
restrictions as cases surge.

The capital now
requires a negative PCR test result within 48 hours for those seeking to enter
public places such as shopping malls, hotels and government buildings, Beijing
authorities said. Schools across the city have moved to online classes.

The southern
manufacturing hub of Guangzhou — where nearly a third of the latest COVID
cases were found — has built thousands of temporary hospital rooms to
accommodate patients.

A series of new rules
announced by the central government earlier this month appeared to signal a
shift away from zero-COVID, easing quarantine requirements for entering the
country and simplifying a system for designating high-risk areas.

But China has yet to
approve more effective mRNA vaccines for public use and only 85% 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 was seen as a pilot for testing reopening
strategies, reversed most of its easing measures this week.

“The path to
reopening may be slow, costly and bumpy,” Ting Lu, chief China economist
at Nomura, said in a note. “Shanghai-style full lockdowns could be
avoided, but they might be replaced by more frequent partial lockdowns in a
rising number of cities due to surging COVID case numbers.”


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