China adds record infections, considers adjusting ‘zero covid’ policy

Beijing, Mar 8 (EFE).- China is in the grip of new Covid-19 outbreaks as the country registered its highest daily infections in months this week despite its strict “zero tolerance” strategy against the coronavirus.

On Tuesday, the country reported at least 300 new infections on the mainland for the third consecutive day, a very low figure compared to those being recorded in other countries and taking into account China’s population of 1.41 billion.

But the numbers are unprecedented in China since the first half of 2020.

A total of 3.16 billion doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in mainland China, enough for the entire eligible population to have received two doses, according to official figures.

One of the worst affected places in the southern Guangdong province, bordering the semi-autonomous region of Hong Kong, is in the middle of a fifth wave that has already claimed more than 1,000 lives since Feb. 25.

The province’s Shenzhen city has been the scene of one of the largest outbreaks.

Lu Hongzhou, the head of Shenzhen’s anti-epidemic expert team and head of the Third People’s Hospital of Shenzhen, attributed the outbreak partly to the city’s proximity to Hong Kong.

He said that many truck drivers travel between Hong Kong and Guangzhou and some people illegally cross the border between the two regions, state-run newspaper Global Times reported.

Shenzhen responded by tightening the rules for travelers from Hong Kong, canceling classes, and making a negative PCR test result mandatory to access the subway, among other measures.

Several neighborhoods have remained under lockdown amid surging infections in the city, which has 320 active cases among its 12.5 million inhabitants, according to official figures.

The relatively high number of asymptomatic infections, which are counted separately in official reports and which have been above 300 daily since Sunday, complicates the usual tracking efforts, an essential part of China’s strategy which dictates that those infected and their close contacts must remain isolated and under observation.

After other countries that had adopted a tough anti-Covid policy, including Australia and Singapore, eased restrictions, China is the only country that is clinging on to its so-called “dynamic zero-Covid strategy.”

Zhang Wenhong, a top infectious diseases expert in the country, said on Monday that China was entering a difficult and decisive phase, in which different places will have different levels of controls depending on the local conditions.

China’s borders remain closed to non-resident foreign visitors and travelers arriving in China have to undergo a strict 14-day quarantine in a hotel.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying, said on Twitter on Monday that the country will focus its efforts this year on “rolling out a plan to facilitate safe, healthy & convenient intl travel.”

According to official data, 111,520 people have contracted Covid-19 in the country since the start of the pandemic, out of which 102,832 have recovered from the illness and 4,636 have died. EFE


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