China on Thursday reported a record number of daily Covid infections as a nationwide spike in cases adds 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 high of 29,317 recorded on April 13 during Shanghai’s months-long lockdown.
Fueled by outbreaks in several cities, the surge comes despite authorities’ refusal to end strict infection controls, even in the face of a mounting – and unprecedented – backlash against their harsh approach of incessant lockdowns, quarantines and mass testing mandates.
Meanwhile, a spate of Covid-related deaths has put further pressure on the mix. Beijing on Wednesday recorded its fourth Covid-19-related death since last weekend, alongside 1,648 local infections – the third straight day with more than 1,000 local cases.
City officials on Thursday said they were converting a major exhibition center into a makeshift hospital for quarantining and treating Covid patients.
That was just the latest sign of capital tightening 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 companies and embassies — urged residents to stay home and close restaurants, gyms and beauty salons.
China, the last major economy in the world still enforcing strict zero-Covid measures, announced limited policy easing earlier this month in what some observers saw as a sign the government is acknowledging its deficits.
It discouraged unnecessary mass testing and an overzealous classification of “high risk” restricted areas, scrapped quarantine requirements for secondary close contacts, and reduced quarantine for close contacts and international arrivals.
Following the announcement, several Chinese cities canceled mass Covid testing, but a dizzying array of restrictions remain for residents to navigate – particularly when outbreaks occur.
Signs that people have had enough are becoming ever more dramatic, and rare protests have erupted in a country where authorities have traditionally cracked down on signs of dissent.
Protests erupted this week at the world’s largest iPhone manufacturing factory in the city of Zhengzhou. Videos on social media showed workers turning themselves in to riot police after authorities attempted to seal down the facility following an outbreak. It comes a week after some residents of Guangzhou’s southern manufacturing hub defied a prolonged lockdown by tearing down barriers and marching down the streets.
The anger of citizens trapped in lockdowns is fueled by recurring issues such as: