China’s Covid case count hits record as disagreement grows over tight restrictions


China reported a record number of daily Covid infections on Thursday as a nationwide spate of cases ramps up 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 — more than the previous peak of 29,317 on April 13 during Shanghai’s months-long lockdown.

The surge is fueled by outbreaks in multiple cities and comes despite a refusal by authorities to end strict infection controls, even despite mounting – and unprecedented – backlash against their crackdown on ongoing lockdowns, quarantines and mass testing mandates .

Meanwhile, a trickle of Covid-related fatalities has further strained the mix. Beijing on Wednesday recorded its fourth Covid-related death since last weekend, in addition to 1,648 local infections – the third consecutive day of more than 1,000 local cases.

On Thursday, city officials said they were converting a large exhibition center into a makeshift hospital for the quarantine and treatment of Covid patients.

That was just the latest sign that the capital was ramping up 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 avoid restaurants, gyms and beauty salons. Close.

China, the world’s last major economy still enforcing strict zero-Covid measures, announced limited policy easing earlier this month in what some observers saw as a sign that the government was acknowledging its shortcomings.

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

Following the announcement, several Chinese cities have canceled massive Covid testing, but a dizzying array of restrictions remain for residents to navigate — especially when outbreaks happen.

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

Protests broke out this week at the world’s largest iPhone assembly plant, in Zhengzhou city. Videos posted on social media showed workers confronting riot police after authorities attempted to seal off the facility following a breakout. It comes a week after some residents in Guangzhou’s southern manufacturing center rioted against an extended lockdown by tearing down barriers and marching through streets.

Fueling the anger of citizens trapped in lockdowns are recurring problems, such as not being able to get prompt medical care or securing enough food and supplies, or losing jobs and income.

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