China’s Covid cases hit record high as dissent grows over tough restrictions


Beijing
CNN

China reported a record number of daily Covid infections on Thursday as a nationwide surge in cases put pressure on the country’s increasingly unpopular zero-tolerance approach to the virus.

The National Health Commission (NHC) recorded 31,444 locally transmitted cases on Wednesday – surpassing the previous peak of 29,317 recorded on April 13 during Shanghai’s months-long lockdown.

The rise is fueled by cases in several cities and comes despite authorities refusing to end strict infection controls, even in the face of a growing – and unprecedented – backlash against their heavy-handed approach of nonstop lockdowns, quarantines and mass testing orders.

Meanwhile, a spate of Covid-related deaths has added further pressure to the mix. Beijing on Wednesday recorded its fourth Covid-related death since last weekend, along with 1,648 local infections – the third straight day of more than 1,000 local cases.

On Thursday, city officials said they were turning a large exhibition center into a makeshift hospital to quarantine and treat Covid patients.

This was just the latest sign that the capital has stepped up its Covid controls. Earlier this week, schools in several districts moved classes online, while Chaoyang – the epicenter of the city’s outbreak and home to many international businesses and embassies – urged residents to stay at home and closed restaurants, gyms and beauty salons.

China, the world’s last major economy still enforcing strict zero-Covid measures, announced a limited easing of policy earlier this month, which some observers saw as a sign of the government’s recognition of inadequacy.

It discouraged unnecessary mass testing and overzealous classification of restricted “high-risk” areas, removed quarantine requirements for secondary close contacts, and reduced quarantine for close contacts and international arrivals.

After the announcement, several Chinese cities canceled mass Covid tests, but a dizzying array of restrictions remains for residents to navigate — especially when outbreaks occur.

Signs that people have had enough are becoming increasingly dramatic, and rare protests have erupted in a country where authorities have traditionally suppressed any sign of dissent.

Protests erupted this week at the world’s largest iPhone assembly plant in the city of Zhengzhou. Videos on social media showed workers confronting police after authorities tried to lock down the facility following an outbreak. It comes a week after some residents of the southern manufacturing hub of Guangzhou rebelled against an extended lockdown by tearing down barriers and taking to the streets.

Fueling the anger of citizens trapped in lockdowns are recurring issues such as the inability to access immediate medical care or secure adequate food and supplies, or the loss of work and income.

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