Schools and restaurants closed, civil servants in smart working. Beijing register a record number of Covid cases and the authorities take action.
In the capital of Chinawhich has 22 million inhabitants, there were 621 infections on Sunday, but the balance in the last 24 hours has risen to 1,438, a figure not seen since the beginning of the pandemic. On Sunday, the city reported the first death from Covid in China in almost six months.
Nationwide, the total number of daily cases, including imported cases, has now exceeded 28,000. The worst-affected areas are the southern province of Guangdong and the southwestern city of Chongqing.
TO Guangzhou million people are in lockdown: Public transport has been suspended and residents are required to test negative before they can leave their homes. Baiyun district, home to 3.7 million people, suspended face-to-face classes in schools and closed universities. The measures are expected to last until Friday, the city administration announced.
Separation barriers in the streets of Guangzhou
At the moment there are no such strict measures in the capital. The authorities seem to want to avoid a strict confinement like the one applied to Shanghai in the spring for the time being, but have nevertheless tightened health measures in recent days with nearly 600 areas, including residential buildings, considered “high risk”: their residents are been forced to remain confined to their homes or to be transported to quarantine centres.
A negative test will also be required within the previous 48 hours to enter public places such as shopping malls, hotels, government buildings from Nov. 24, city government spokesman Xu Hejian said.
Queues for swabs are back in Beijing
Compared to the rest of the world, China appears more enmeshed than ever in its zero Covid policy, despite its devastating effects on the economy and growing popular discontent.
In early November, the government presented a series of relaxations, including the reduction of quarantines, especially for travelers arriving from abroad, and large-scale tests were suspended in many cities. However, the truce did not last long, after the explosion of infections in recent days: almost 30,000, a minimum figure compared to the Chinese population (1.4 billion) and those recorded in other large countries, but which is close to the record reached in spring.
There is no “sign that Chinese leadership is ready to abandon zero Covid any time soon,” notes Yanzhong Huang, a health expert at the US think tank Council on International Relations. And the people don’t like this: in Canton, in the south of the country, residents clashed with the police after the extension of the confinement.
According to Huang, another year of “zero Covid” would lead to “a disaster for the Chinese economy and could exacerbate social tensions to a breaking point, which would threaten the stability of the regime and could also cause a crisis of legitimacy “. But the opposite is also true: opening up the country too quickly is risky, because China could “face a viral surge accompanied by mass mortality, which would quickly overwhelm its fragile health system,” she warns.
New hospital under construction in Guangzhou