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Sunday, February 25, 2024

China on High Alert: COVID-19 not over yet!


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According to a recent BBC report, dozen of cities across China, including Wuhan where the coronavirus was first recorded, have gone into lockdown – as the country pursues leader Xi Jinping’s zero-Covid policy.

More than 800,000 people in one district in Wuhan were told to stay at home until 30 October.

A survey by Japanese bank Nomura found the number of Chinese under Covid control measures right now is around 232 million, up from 225 million last week. The 31 cities under some form of lockdown as of Oct. 27 account for one in six people in China and 24.5 percent of its gross domestic product, Nomura’s analysis found, up from 22.9 percent the previous week.

Across China, around 200 lockdowns have been implemented in recent days – the majority of these affecting community that has been marked as high or medium risk. Residents in different areas are subject to different rules, depending on whether they are in a low, medium, or high-risk zone.

Shanghai ordered mass testing on Friday of all 1.3 million residents of the downtown Yangpu district, as per a report by the Associated Press. 

The AP report stated that the people have been confined to their homes till the time the results are known. Under its policy, the citizens are not allowed to venture outside their residences, and food is distributed to them by the authorities. Moreover, mass testing and travel bans are also a part of the policy.

The order of mass testing and lockdown is in line with the measures ordered over the summer that led to a two-month lockdown of the entire city of 25 million, further adversely hitting the local economy. When the lockdown began, authorities said that it would last just days but then kept extending the deadline, the AP report said.

As China imposes fresh lockdowns and travel restrictions amid the Covid surge, the country has detected new Omicron sub-variants BF.7 and BA.5.1.7, which are highly infectious with greater transmissibility. BF.7 (also known as BA.2.75.2) is a sub-lineage of the Covid Omicron variant BA.5.2.1.

According to reports in the Chinese media, the BF.7 was detected on October 4 in Yantai and Shaoguan city. The subvariant BA.5.1.7 was detected in the Chinese mainland for the first time, as reported by Global Times.

The World Health Organization had warned against the highly infectious BF.7 sub-variant.

The BA.5 omicron sub-variant remains dominant around the world, accounting for 77.1% of sequences forwarded to a centralized database, the agency said.

“BA.2, BA.4 and BA.5 and their various sub-variants have in many cases acquired the same mutations at the same position, indicating convergent evolution,” said the WHO.

China is sticking to a zero-COVID policy. Reportedly, Beijing has doubled down on the policy ahead of the Communist Party’s 20th National Congress, expected to take place within the next three months.

The handling of the pandemic is widely seen as central to the political legacy of President Xi Jinping, who is set to be anointed for an unprecedented third term in office at the meeting.

The World Health Organization’s weekly epidemiological update, meanwhile, shows cases and fatalities are still falling across the world. The global case tally was down 15 percent in the week through Oct. 23 from the previous week. The number of deaths fell 13 percent to just over 8,500.

The highest number of new weekly cases came from Germany at 498,787, followed by France, at 307,610; China at 285,348; and the U.S. at 255,116. Experts are expecting the winter months to bring a fresh wave of cases as people gather indoors in the colder weather.

While the rest of the world has more or less resumed normal life while learning to live with the virus, China is sticking to the same rules with mass testing, costly lockdowns, and closed borders. Raising the doubts about whether there are more unrevealed reasons behind China’s ‘zero-Covid’ strategy that the world does not know about. 

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