Surging cases threaten to turn into early test of China’s resolve to ease Covid-19 rules


A surge in Covid-19 cases threatens to turn into an early test of China’s resolve to ease some of its strict virus controls, after health officials over the weekend said the changes were a refinement, not a relaxation, of the rules.

The nation reported 15,525 new local cases for Sunday, the fourth day in a row the number has held above 10,000, a level last seen in late April when Shanghai was in the midst of its grueling lockdown.

Guangdong, Henan, Beijing, Chongqing and Inner Mongolia remain the provinces or municipalities with the biggest outbreaks.

Beijing reported 404 cases for Sunday, up from 230 on Saturday and the highest in more than a year. Daily cases in the capital have jumped from the start of November, when they numbered in the twenties.

Many places boosted restrictions amid the rising cases, even after China on Friday announced a more targeted approach to the pandemic that many took to mean an easing of its zero-tolerance approach.

Top health officials over the weekend said stamping out infections remains the guiding principle, leaving local officials to make the difficult decisions if more intensive curbs are needed.

Beijing’s most populous district Chaoyang, which accounts for most of the infections found in the city, ramped up restrictions as its outbreak grew.

Most supermarkets and convenience stores require negative tests done within 24 hours to enter, according to notices seen at entrances, even though no formal announcement was made.

The same rules apply to many other public venues, including gyms and office buildings.

Guangzhou, which posted 4,065 cases, extended lockdowns in the districts of Panyu and Liwan until Wednesday.

Lockdowns however were not implemented everywhere cases were rising.

The local government in Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei province that surrounds Beijing, acknowledged its situation was “severe and complex” in a WeChat post on Sunday when it posted 544 new infections, up from 486 a day earlier.

Still, the outbreak is controllable, it said, vowing to implement the country’s newly released 20 measures and using the minimum force possible.

University campuses, a hot spot of the current outbreak, were evacuated and deep cleaned.

People who have not been designated as high-risk could gradually return to school starting Monday, according to the government, which said it would ensure daily life would carry on normally everywhere other than high-risk areas.

On Friday, China reduced the amount of time that travelers and close contacts must spend in quarantine, and pulled back on testing in a significant recalibration of the Covid-19 Zero policy that has isolated the world’s second-largest economy and stoked public angst.

“I have to emphasize in particular that strict Covid-19 prevention and control and the optimizing measures must be combined and implemented at the same time,” deputy director Chang Jile of the National Health Commission’s Bureau of Disease Prevention and Control, said at a briefing on Saturday.




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