China sees rise in COVID cases as Guangzhou begins lockdown; Beijing shuts businesses, schools

China is again facing a grim battle with COVID-19 as Southern manufacturing hub Guangzhou locked down its largest district while capital Beijing is in semi-lockdown amid record new infections daily from Zhengzhou in central Henan province to Chongqing in the southwest. Authorities on Monday announced 26,824 new local cases, close to the country’s peak in April.

Guangzhou city in South China’s Guangdong Province has been hit hardest and announced a five-day lockdown on Monday for the most populous district of Baiyun, and suspended dining-in services and shut nightclubs and theatres in the main business district. During the severest flare-up in Guangzhou for more than half a month, the city has accumulated more than 80,000 infections.

In Beijing, where authorities reported 962 new infections on Monday – one of the highest official figures, students in schools in several districts began studying online after officials called for residents in some of its hardest-hit areas to stay home.

China has continued with a strict “zero COVID” strategy that relies on lockdowns, mass testing and border controls to stamp out the virus wherever flare ups occur. Despite relaxing some COVID restrictions, including slashing quarantine for international arrivals from seven to five days, and calling for more targeted measures, Beijing has repeatedly ruled out doing away with the principle of “zero COVID” even as public is increasingly getting frustrated with the policy and many protests have erupted. Beijing’s international airport wore a deserted look as City further tightened rules for entering the city even for domestic travellers.

Over the weekend, Capital Beijing also reported three COVID-19-related deaths in over six months. Experts outside China are widely sceptical of the country’s official COVID death toll of fewer than 5,300 given international experience with the virus, although Beijing’s harsh restrictions have kept cases and deaths much lower than other parts of world.

The rising cases amid harsh controls have given reason to people across China to question the costs and utility of zero-Covid measures. As lockdowns spread across the countries in many cities, recurring issues like delay in prompt medical care leading to death of children or lack of enough food, losing work and income have been reported across China.

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