China's Covid infections hit record high as tensions grow over lockdowns

China’s Covid infections hit record high as tensions grow over lockdowns

Image source: Fox

China has reported a record number of Covid-19 infections, with cities across the country imposing localized lockdowns, mass testing and other restrictions that are stoking frustration and dimming the outlook for the world’s second-biggest economy.

The surge in infections nearly three years after the pandemic broke out in the central city of Wuhan casts doubt on investor hopes that China will soon ease its strict zero-Covid policy, despite more targeted recent measures.

The curbs are testing stranded residents and production at factories, including the world’s largest iPhone factory, which has been rocked by clashes between workers and security personnel in a rare show of dissent.

The streets of Chaoyang, the capital’s most populous district, have been increasingly emptier this week.

Sanlitun, a high-end shopping area, was mostly silent today, except for the hum of e-bikes from couriers delivering meals for those working from home.

Brokerage Nomura cut its forecast for China’s fourth-quarter GDP from 2.8% to 2.4% year-on-year and cut its full-year growth forecast to 2.8% from 2.9%, well below the China’s official target of around 5.5%. % this year.

China’s leadership has remained locked in zero-Covid, a signature policy of President Xi Jinping, even as much of the world tries to coexist with the virus, saying it is necessary to save lives and prevent the medical system from being overwhelmed.

The 31,444 new local Covid-19 infections broke a record set yesterday on April 13, when Shanghai’s commercial hub was brought to a standstill by a two-month citywide lockdown of its 25 million residents.

This time around, however, the big outbreaks are many and far between, with the biggest in the southern city of Guangzhou and southwestern Chongqing, even as hundreds of new infections are being reported daily in cities including Chengdu, Jinan, Lanzhou and xian.

Nomura estimates that more than a fifth of China’s GDP is in lockdown, a larger part of the British economy.

While official case counts are low by global standards, China is seeking to break any chain of infection, a more difficult challenge as China faces its first winter battling the highly contagious variant of Omicron.

China recently began to relax some rules on mass testing and quarantine as it seeks to avoid generic measures like city lockdowns.

Instead, cities have used more localized and often unannounced lockdowns. Many people in Beijing said they recently received warnings about three-day closures in their housing estates.

Many cities have returned to mass testing, which China had hoped to scale back as costs rose. Others, including Beijing, Shanghai and the Hainan island resort of Sanya, have limited movements of new arrivals.

The central city of Zhengzhou, where workers at the massive Foxconn factory that makes iPhones for Apple staged protests, announced five days of mass testing in eight districts, becoming the latest to restart daily testing for millions of residents.

A sharper-than-expected slowdown in China, which is hurting domestic demand in particular, would spill over to countries like Japan, South Korea and Australia, which export hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of goods and raw materials a second. largest country in the world. economy.

The recent acceptance of booster doses of the Covid-19 vaccine in the European Union has been “quite disappointing”, an official said, amid concerns that protection against severe cases of the disease could weaken over the winter.

The European average rate of revaccination, or booster, was only 29% in groups of people considered to be at higher risk, such as the elderly and the immunocompromised.

“It is of concern that those most at risk of hospitalisation or severe Covid are not adequately protected,” the European Medicines Agency’s head of health threats and vaccines strategy, Marco Cavaleri, told a news briefing, reports RTE.

WHO data released last night showed that 724,000 new cases of Covid-19 were reported in the EU last week, 11% less than the previous week.

In early October, when experts warned of a new wave of Covid-19, the number of weekly cases hit 1.5 million.

“This virus is maintaining a fast pace in its evolution, and new subvariants of Omicron and its offspring are on the rise,” Dr Cavaleri said, adding that these are more resistant to vaccines, reports RTE.

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