China reported the death of an 87-year-old man in Beijing on Sunday as its first fatality from Covid-19 in six months, with cases rising despite a strict zero-Covid policy.
China is the last major economy still stuck with a policy of no tolerance for the virus and has enforced rapid lockdowns, mass testing and quarantines even as the rest of the world adjusts to living with Covid.
Municipal officials announced on Sunday that the 87-year-old man had died in the capital. They also said 621 new local cases had been detected in Beijing.
The National Health Commission also said it had recorded more than 24,000 localized infections nationwide in the past 24 hours.
While the numbers are low compared to most other countries, the latest announcements follow a recent surge in cases in China after months of few infections reported.
The announcements also come after Beijing announced its most significant easing of coronavirus measures to date on November 11.
One of the moves to ease controls was a reduction in mandatory quarantine times for international arrivals.
Days later, multiple Chinese cities canceled massive Covid testing, raising hopes for an eventual reopening.
But the limited easing has failed to lead to a zero-Covid turnaround, leaving China internationally isolated, devastated its economy and sparking protests in a country where dissent is routinely suppressed.
Beijing has taken measures in recent days to lock some residents in their homes and send others to quarantine centers.
More than 8,000 new daily cases were reported in Guangzhou’s southern manufacturing center on Sunday, prompting officials to launch a blanket Covid screening in Haizhu’s central district, home to about 1.8 million people, and Baiyun district for five days to close.
Guangzhou was the scene of furious protests and clashes with police over a renewed lockdown last week.
As another sign that China’s reopening may still be under siege, Beijing officials reiterated their call for residents to avoid “unnecessary” travel between districts to prevent the spread of the virus.
Some of Beijing’s largest malls closed on Sundays, while others reduced opening hours or banned table service in restaurants.
Several offices in the business and diplomatic center of Chaoyang District asked companies to tell their employees to work from home. Some parks and gyms are also closed.
The number of cases “is seeing a significant rise,” Beijing municipality spokesman Xu Hejian said on Sunday. “The situation of epidemic prevention and control in the capital is grim.”