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Tensions Rise in China Cities as Covid Cases Hit 6-Month High

Covid cases hit a six month high on Friday, with 3,871 new local cases. But the rise is causing social and economic strains, while keeping policymakers on edge.

Analysts warned on Thursday that China's Covid policy change could spur 'significant fatalities' .
Rising Covid cases area creating strains for citizens as well as policymakers in affected cities across China. This image shows government personnel in Shanghai wearing special suits to stop them getting the virus. File photo: AFP.


China reported its highest daily count of new local Covid cases in six months on Friday as outbreaks widened. New locally transmitted cases rose to 3,871 on Thursday, according to data released by the National Health Commission

That is the most since May when Shanghai was fighting its worst outbreak and Beijing scrambled to contain one.

The rise in infections causing social and economic strains, while keep policymakers on edge.

Almost three years into the pandemic, China has stuck to a strict Covid containment policy that has caused mounting economic damage and widespread frustration.

Curbs and lockdowns became more frequent with the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron strain. China’s borders remain largely shut.

There was some positive news though, with a report Friday that China is working on plans to scrap a system that penalises airlines for bringing virus cases into the country, suggesting the move is a sign authorities are looking for ways to ease the impact of its Covid policies.

‘Give Us Freedom!’

China has yet to say when or how it will begin to exit from its current approach. Earlier this week, Chinese shares jumped after rumours that China was planning a reopening from strict Covid curbs in March.

Domestic tensions have steadily built this year as the endless curbs, restrictions and lockdowns fuelled unhappiness.

The central city of Wuhan, where the pandemic began, has imposed an array of temporary lockdowns and restrictions after double-digit new cases were reported in the past week.

Videos showing rowdy protests inside a compound in Wuhan’s Hanyang district on Thursday night were shared on social media on Friday, with angry residents seen smashing down Covid disaster relief tents and calling for an end to their lockdown.

Crowds in the videos, which could not be immediately verified, can be heard shouting, “Give us freedom, give us freedom!”



‘Save Yourself’

On Wednesday, an industrial park that houses an iPhone factory of Foxconn entered a seven-day lockdown due to Covid, in a move likely to intensify pressure on the Apple supplier as it scrambles to quell worker discontent at the base.

The lockdown marks a re-tightening of measures in the central city of Zhengzhou, which unexpectedly lifted a quasi-lockdown on its nearly 13 million residents just the day before.

Also this week, posts on rapidly rising food prices in Xining, the capital of Qinghai province in China’s northwest, and a lack of access to daily essentials because of lockdowns went viral on social media.

A video on the Twitter-like microblog Weibo showed two residents handing cartons of milk and bags of vegetables to an elderly woman who, according to the post, could not buy groceries for three days after the city shut most shops at the end of October.

On Tuesday, a 3-year-old boy died from carbon monoxide poisoning in the northwestern city of Lanzhou, a tragedy that his father said was “indirectly” because strict Covid policies had caused delays in obtaining treatment.

The hashtag, “Three years of Covid was his entire life”, became a trending topic on Weibo before being scrubbed from the site.

The Lanzhou government and department of health did not respond to requests for comment.

On Friday, the city of Ordos in the Chinese region of Inner Mongolia said it will “draw lessons” from the recent “problems” uncovered in epidemic prevention in some places in China.

“You have the right to take measures to save yourself, or to avoid danger in a timely manner,” it said in a statement.


  • Reuters with addtional editing by Jim Pollard




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Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years.


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