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Record case of Covid-19: millions of people confined in China


DMillions of people were locked down Sunday, March 13, across China as the country recorded its highest rate in two years of daily coronavirus cases, while public angst over the persistence of the zero policy -Covid of the government is more and more felt.

Due to a spike in cases across the country, authorities closed schools in Shanghai, locked down central neighborhoods in southern tech hub Shenzhen, as well as entire cities in the northeast, while nearly nineteen provinces fight against local foci due to the Delta and Omicron variants. The large city of Jilin, in the northeast, has been partially confined, with hundreds of neighborhoods put under bell jar, an official announced on Sunday. Yanji, a town of 700,000 people on the North Korean border, has been completely confined.

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Lamented lack of medical resources

China, where the virus was first detected in late 2019, has applied a zero-tolerance policy to the outbreak. It reacts to epidemic outbreaks with local confinements, mass screening, and control of its population through tracing applications. The country’s borders remain virtually closed. But this record of daily cases, caused by the Omicron variant, undermines this approach.

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“The emergency response mechanism in some areas is not robust enough, the understanding of the characteristics of the Omicron variant is insufficient […] and the judgment was inaccurate,” admitted Zhang Yan, health official for Jilin province, at a government press briefing. “It also reflects the rapid rise […] of the virus in the different regions and the lack of […] medical resources,” causing delays in admitting hospitals and treating patients, he added.

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The policy of “zero-Covid” exhausts the inhabitants

Residents of Jilin, which has reported more than 500 cases of the Omicron variant, had completed their six rounds of mandatory drug tests by Sunday, according to local authorities. On Saturday, several hundred neighborhoods in the city were confined. Changchun, a neighboring city and industrial base of 9 million inhabitants, was put under a bell on Friday.

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Jilin’s mayor and Changchun’s health official were removed from their posts on Saturday, state media reported, in a sign of the political imperative imposed on local authorities to tackle outbreaks. China has so far managed to keep coronavirus cases very low thanks to localized lockdowns and mass testing and its closed borders.

But the weariness of this strict approach is increasingly being heard in China. Several officials are now advocating softer, targeted measures to contain the spread of the virus, and economists are warning that drastic measures are hurting the country’s economy.

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