China’s capital Beijing reported a record number of new Covid cases, as the city hunkered down under a tightening chokehold of restrictions that has forced schools to close, many restaurants to close, and employees to work from home.
More than 28,000 new infections were reported nationwide, approaching the pandemic’s all-time high, with Guangdong province and the city of Chongqing reporting over 16,000 and 6,300 cases, respectively, according to health officials.
New cases in Beijing have also increased in recent days, more than doubling from 621 on Sunday to 1,438 on Tuesday, a pandemic high for the city.
The last major economy that adhered to a zero-tolerance policy In the early stages of the pandemic, China used snap lockdowns, mass testing, and quarantines to control outbreaks with great success.
However, the latest spiraling outbreak is putting that strategy to the test, with officials keen to avoid citywide lockdowns like Shanghai’s two-month ordeal in April, which harmed the finance hub’s economy and international image.
Authorities said three elderly Beijing residents with underlying diseases died from Covid over the weekend, marking China’s first Covid deaths since May.
While the capital has avoided a total shutdown, there have been widespread snap lockdowns of individual buildings and long PCR testing lines as a result of the requirement for a 24-hour negative test for entry to most public spaces.
Authorities advised residents to stay at home and avoid travelling between districts over the weekend. And on Monday, visitors to the city were required to test multiple times after they arrived. Many tourist attractions, gyms, and parks have been closed, and major events such as concerts have been cancelled.
On November 11, China announced its most significant easing of coronavirus measures to date, billed as an “optimization” to limit the economic and social impact of zero-Covid measures. Among the measures were shorter mandatory quarantine periods for international arrivals.
Several Chinese cities cancelled mass Covid testing last week, but some later reinstated it, highlighting the difficulty in controlling the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.
Shijiazhuang, which had previously cancelled mass testing, went into partial lockdown on Monday after cases increased, and several districts in Guangzhou’s southern epicenter also went into lockdown on the same day.
The limited relaxation has not resulted in a reversal of zero-Covid, which has left China internationally isolated and caused havoc on the economy.
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