THE COVID OUTBREAKS across China are expanding. The National Health Commission on March 14 reported a daily total of 1,337 new locally transmitted cases, including 895 in the northeastern border province of Jilin.
Severe movement restrictions have been imposed on Jilin, the first provincial-wide sealing-off since much of Hubei was locked down in 2020 following the first outbreak in its provincial capital, Wuhan. This broadens the restrictions imposed last week on the provincial capital of Changchun, where most of Jilin’s infections have been reported. Emergency isolation hospitals are being erected. Toyota’s factory there has had to halt production. (Update: Jilin City mayor Wang Lu has been sacked due to ineffective epidemic prevention and control, Xinhua reports.)
In Shanghai, schools have reverted to online teaching, road transport to the city is being restricted. A ban on inbound international flights is reportedly being considered.
The lockdown in central Shenzhen has expanded to cover most of the city’s 17.5 million population, and three rounds of testing have been ordered. High-tech factories such as those of Apple supplier Hon Hai Precision Industry (Foxconn) and Huawei will temporarily stop production. However, the Shenzhen Yantian Port container terminal is still operating, but under strict Covid controls.
The Shenzhen outbreak is likely to be a spillover from the raging infection in neighbouring Hong Kong, where 26,908 new daily cases and 249 deaths were reported on Monday. New infections appear to have plateaued, but deaths are still rising, especially among the unvaccinated elderly.
New cases are also reported in Beijing, Tianjin and cities across Guangdong province.
As of March 9, 14 of China’s provinces had been declared high or medium-risk for the virus. The clusters of outbreaks caused by the fast-spreading Omicron sub-variant BA2 are proving a stiff test of Beijing’s zero-tolerance policy.
No death from the virus has been reported in China since January 2021. However, on Friday, National Health Commissioner Ma Xiaowei said strict controls need to be kept in place.