China reported nearly 3 400 daily COCID-19 cases on Sunday, double the previous day, forcing lockdowns on virus hotspots as the country battles with its worst outbreak in two years.
A nationwide surge in cases has seen authorities closing schools in Shanghai and lockdown several northeastern cities, as almost 19 provinces battle sets of the Omicron and Delta variants.
The city of Jilin has been partially locked down, with hundreds of neighbourhoods sealed up, an official announced Sunday, while Yanji, an urban area of nearly 700 000 bordering North Korea, was fully closed off.
China, where the virus was first detected in late 2019, has maintained a strict zero-COVID policy enforced by swift lockdowns, travel restrictions and mass testing when clusters have emerged.
That approach is being challenged by the latest flare-up driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant and a spike in asymptomatic cases.
Zhang Yan, an official with the Jilin provincial health commission, admitted on Sunday that local authorities’ virus response so far had been lacking. He said at a government press briefing:
The emergency response mechanism in some areas is not robust enough, there is insufficient understanding of the characteristics of the Omicron variant … and judgment has been inaccurate.
1). Residents of Jilin have completed six rounds of mass testing, local officials said. On Sunday the city reported over 500 cases of the Omicron variant.
2). Neighbouring Changchun – an industrial base of nine million people – was locked down on Friday.
3). Smaller cities of Siping and Dunhua, both in Jilin province, were locked down Thursday and Friday.
4). The mayor of Jilin and the head of the Changchun health commission were dismissed from their jobs Saturday.
5). As cases rise, the country’s national health commission announced Friday that they would introduce the use of rapid antigen tests.
6). Kits will now be available online or at pharmacies for clinics and ordinary citizens to buy for “self-testing.
70. Chinese vice-premier Sun Chunlan on Saturday urged regions to quickly pounce on and clear outbreaks.
Response to measures:
1). Officials increasingly urging softer and more targeted measures to contain the virus, while economists warn that tough clampdowns are hurting the economy.
2). A top Chinese scientist said the country should aim to coexist with the virus, like other nations, but the government has also made clear that mass lockdowns remain an option.
More: The Guardian