China records its highest caseload since Covid pandemic started in 2019

Beijing: China reported a record high in daily Covid-19 infections on Thursday as it imposed localized lockdowns in several cities including Beijing and local authorities struggled to control the surging outbreak, given the promise of easing the controversial ‘zero-Covid’ strategy.

Mainland China reported more than 31,600 Covid infections for Wednesday, the highest daily number since the pandemic broke out in the central city of Wuhan in late, 2019, surpassing the 29,317 high logged in April during the Shanghai outbreak.

The total caseload since November 1 now stands over 310,000, a surge that has left city governments across China struggling and searching for ways to curb the spread.

Beijing recorded over 1,600 fresh Covid-19 cases for Wednesday, the third consecutive day of 1,000 plus cases, and one death related to the infection, taking the toll to six in the ongoing outbreak.

“The number of new cases of the epidemic continues to increase, and the epidemic spreading significantly,” Xu Hejian, a Beijing government spokesperson was quoted as saying on Thursday.

Xu said that at present the “…domestic epidemic points are many…the number of new cases of the epidemic in Beijing is continuously rising at a high level…and the capital’s prevention and control work are in a critical period of epidemic handling”.

Several more areas in Beijing were put under targeted lockdowns on Thursday as city authorities attempted to cut transmission chains.

Beijing has converted an exhibition center into a makeshift hospital to cater to Covid-19 patients, the numbers of which are expected to increase in the coming days.

The city has already closed shopping malls, restaurants, and office buildings and suspended access to many apartment compounds and especially in the worst-hit Chaoyang district, the most populous one in the city.

The large cities of Guangzhou in south China and Chongqing in the southwest of the country continued to log more than half of the mainland’s cases and continued to implement various kinds of restrictions within city limits.

Several businesses and residential communities remained locked down in Guangzhou and mass tests were continuing in Chongqing as of Thursday where residents have been asked not to leave the city.

While China’s count of Covid-19 cases and fatalities remains low, the sharpest surge in numbers since the pandemic started is expected to slow down even the gradual withdrawal of Beijing’s ‘zero-Covid’ policy, which has led to simmering frustration among citizens and dampened economy.

Meanwhile, the tension between workers and security personnel at the world’s largest iPhone factory in central China’s Zhengzhou city continued on Thursday, a day after the two groups clashed over Covid-19 restrictions and working conditions.

A tense face-off between workers at the Foxconn Technology Group plant, which makes Apple iPhones and which has been roiled by Covid-19 for weeks, and security personnel and health workers continued to disrupt production.

“Tech giant Foxconn said it will give newly recruited employees at the world’s largest iPhone assembly plant in the central city of Zhengzhou an option to return home with severance pay after accusations over contract fraud and poor pandemic control measures led to worker unrest,” the Sixthtone news website said in a report on Thursday.