Chinese health authorities reported nearly 3,400 COVID-19 cases on Sunday, twice the previous day, forcing the closure of hot viruses as the country battles its worst epidemic in two years.
The increase in cases nationwide has led authorities to close schools in Shanghai and close several cities in the northeastern part of the country, where nearly 19 provinces are battling clusters of omicron and delta varieties.
The city of Jilin has been partially closed, with hundreds of neighborhoods sealed, an official announced on Sunday, but Yanji, nearly 700,000 towns adjacent to North Korea, were completely closed.
China, where the virus was first detected in late 2019, has maintained a strict “zero-COVID” policy, which is enforced with rapid closures, travel restrictions and mass tests once clusters have emerged.
But the latest flare-up, driven by highly contagious omicron variants and an increase in asymptomatic cases, provokes that approach.
Zhang Yan, an official with the Jilin District Health Committee, acknowledged on Sunday that local authorities’ virus response had so far been deficient.
“The emergency response system in some areas is not strong enough, there is an insufficient understanding of the symptoms of the omicron variant … and judgment has been inaccurate,” he told a government news conference.
Jilin residents have completed six rounds of mass tests, local officials said. On Sunday, the city reported over 500 cases of the omicron variant.
The neighboring city of Changchun – an industrial center with 9 million people – was closed on Friday.
The smaller cities of Siping and Dunhua, both in Jilin province, were closed on Thursday and Friday, according to official announcements.
Jilin’s mayor and head of the Changchun health committee were fired on Saturday, state media reported, as a sign of the political demands placed on municipalities to crack down on virus clusters.
But fatigue with the strict approach has been showing up in China, where officials are increasingly urging softer and more targeted measures to contain the virus, while economists warn that tough measures are harming the economy.
As the number of cases has increased since late February, the response in different parts of the country has generally been softer and more targeted compared to December, when the city of Xi’an and its 13 million inhabitants were locked up for two weeks.
In China’s largest city, Shanghai, authorities have increasingly shut down individual schools, businesses, restaurants and shopping malls for fear of close ties rather than the number of quarantines.
Long lines have been seen outside hospitals in the city where people are in a hurry to get a negative COVID test.
As the number of cases increased, the country’s health committee announced on Friday that it would introduce the use of rapid antigen tests.
The kits will now be available online or at pharmacies for clinics and citizens to buy for “self-testing,” the health committee said.
Although nuclear testing remains the main test method, the operation suggests that China might expect official tests to be unable to contain the virus.
Last week, a Chinese scientist said that the country should aim to coexist with the virus, like other nations, where the omicron has spread like wildfire.
But the government has also made it clear that mass closures are still an option.
Sun Chunlan, China’s deputy prime minister, who often telephones top-level thinking about pandemic responses, on Saturday urged the region to rush in and clear out the outbreak.
China records nearly 3,400 daily virus cases in the worst epidemic in 2 years
Source link China records nearly 3,400 daily virus cases in the worst epidemic in 2 years