China reported a record number of daily Covid infections on Thursday, as a surge in cases across the country put pressure on the country’s increasingly unpopular zero-tolerance approach to the virus.
The National Health Commission (NHC) recorded 31,444 cases of local transmission on Wednesday, surpassing the peak of 29,317 recorded on April 13 during Shanghai’s months-long lockdown.
Outbreaks in multiple cities continue despite authorities’ refusal to end strict infection controls, even in the face of growing – and unprecedented – backlash against their hardline approach to ongoing lockdowns, quarantines and mass testing mandates driving this surge.
Meanwhile, a spate of Covid-related deaths added further pressure. Beijing on Wednesday recorded its fourth death related to COVID-19 since last weekend, along with 1,648 local infections – the third day in a row that local cases surpassed 1,000.
On Thursday, city officials said they were converting a large exhibition center into a makeshift hospital to isolate and treat COVID-19 patients.
This is just the latest sign of capital tightening its grip on Covid. Schools in several areas moved classes online earlier this week, while Chaoyang — the city’s epicenter of the outbreak and home to many international businesses and embassies — urged residents to stay home and closed restaurants, gyms and beauty salons.
Video shows rare protest in Beijing as Chinese leader set to extend his rule
China, the last major economy in the world still enforcing strict zero-Covid measures, announced a limited easing earlier this month that some observers saw as a sign the government acknowledged its inadequacies.
It discouraged unnecessary mass testing and overzealous triage of restricted “high-risk” areas, removed quarantine requirements for secondary close contacts, and reduced quarantine for close contacts and international arrivals.
Several cities in China have canceled mass coronavirus testing following the announcement, but residents still face a dizzying array of restrictions on travel — especially in an outbreak.
Signs that people are fed up are becoming more visible, and rare protests have erupted in a country where authorities have traditionally suppressed any sign of dissent.
Protests erupted this week at the world’s largest iPhone assembly plant in Zhengzhou city. Videos on social media showed workers confronting riot police after authorities tried to seal off the facility in the wake of the outbreak. A week ago, some residents of Guangzhou, the southern manufacturing hub, protested the extension of the lockdown by tearing down barriers and taking to the streets.
Anger among citizens caught in lockdown has been fueled by recurring problems, such as lack of access to timely medical care or adequate food and supplies, or loss of jobs and income.
Crowd breaks street barriers as anger over Covid restrictions mounts