millions of people confined in China face a rise in cases

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Millions of people were in lockdown in China on Sunday as the country recorded its highest rate of daily coronavirus cases in two years, while public anguish over the persistence of the government’s zero-Covid policy was increasingly felt.

health authorities Chinese registered, on Sunday, March 13, about 3,400 new cases of coronavirusa record figure since the start of the epidemic in February 2020, and hastened to curb the outbreaks by confining the affected areas.

Due to this spike in cases across the country, authorities have closed schools in Shanghai, locked down central districts in the southern tech hub of Shenzhen, as well as entire cities in the northeast, while nearly 19 provinces are struggling… local due to Delta and Omicron variants.

The large northeastern city of Jilin has been partially locked down, with hundreds of slums under glass, an official announced on Sunday. Yanji, a city of 700,000 people on the border with North Korea, has been completely locked down.

A strict policy undermined

China, where the virus was first detected in late 2019, has applied a zero-tolerance policy to the outbreak. It reacts to epidemic outbreaks with local lockdowns, mass detection and control of its population through tracking applications. The country’s borders remain practically closed.

But this record of daily cases, caused by the Omicron variant, undermines this approach. “The emergency response mechanism in some areas is not robust enough, the understanding of the characteristics of the Omicron variant is insufficient… and the judgment was inaccurate,” Zhang Yan admitted during a government press conference. Jilin provincial health official.

“It also reflects the rapid rise (…) of the virus in the different regions and the lack of (…) medical resources,” which causes delays in admission to hospitals and in the treatment of patients, he added.

Residents of Jilin, which has reported more than 500 cases of the Omicron variant, had completed their six rounds of mandatory drug tests by Sunday, according to local authorities. On Saturday, several hundred neighborhoods in the city were placed on lockdown. Changchun, a neighboring city and industrial base of 9 million people, was placed under alarm on Friday.

Jilin’s mayor and Changchun’s health official were removed from their posts on Saturday, state media reported, in a sign of the political imperative imposed on local authorities to tackle the outbreaks. So far, China has managed to keep coronavirus cases very low thanks to localized lockdowns, mass testing and border closures.

But the weariness of this strict approach is increasingly being heard in China. Several officials are now advocating softer, more targeted measures to contain the spread of the virus, with economists warning that the drastic measures are hurting the country’s economy.

In Shenzhen, a city of some 13 million people that borders Hong Kong, residents have expressed their anguish over the increase in cases and the drastic response of health authorities, who have closed the Futian district (300,000 inhabitants).

Hong Kong particularly affected

Hong Kong it currently has one of the highest death rates from the virus in the world, with Omicron hitting its elderly population still reluctant to get vaccinated. Thousands of expats have also left the city, mainly due to school closures and severe restrictions that have reduced any gathering or movement to almost zero.

But Chinese health policy has generally been more targeted since the surge in cases, which began in February, than it was in December, when the city of Xi’an and its 13 million people went into complete lockdown for two weeks.

In China’s largest city, Shanghai, authorities have chosen to rely on social distancing by temporarily closing schools, businesses, restaurants and shopping malls rather than implement mass quarantines.

Faced with the increase in cases, the national health authority announced on Friday that it would introduce the use of rapid antigen tests, which could indicate a form of relaxation of the Communist Party’s health policy.

with AFP

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