BEIJING: China on Friday (Nov 4) reported the highest daily count of new local COVID-19 cases in six months as outbreaks widened, pushing policymakers to walk an even finer line between holding the virus at bay while keeping a lid on social and economic angst.
New locally transmitted cases rose to 3,871 on Thursday, according to regular data released by the National Health Commission, the highest since early May when Shanghai was fighting its worst outbreak and Beijing was scrambling to contain one.
Almost three years into the pandemic, China has stuck to a strict COVID-19 containment policy that has caused mounting economic damage and widespread frustration. Curbs and lockdowns became more frequent with the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron strain. China’s borders remain largely shut.
Bloomberg News reported on Friday that China was working on plans to scrap a system that penalises airlines for bringing virus cases into the country, citing people familiar with the matter, saying the effort was a sign authorities were looking for ways to ease the impact of its COVID policies.
China has yet to describe when or how it will begin to exit from its current approach. Earlier this week, Chinese shares jumped after rumours that China was planning a reopening from strict COVID-19 curbs in March.
Domestic tensions have steadily built this year as the endless curbs, restrictions and lockdowns fuelled unhappiness.
The central city of Wuhan, where the pandemic began, has imposed an array of temporary lockdowns and restrictions after double-digit new cases were reported in the past week.
Videos showing rowdy protests inside a compound in Wuhan’s Hanyang district on Thursday night were shared on social media on Friday, with angry residents seen smashing down COVID-19 disaster relief tents and calling for an end to their lockdown.
Crowds in the videos, which Reuters could not immediately verify, can be heard shouting, “Give us freedom, give us freedom!”
On Wednesday, an industrial park that houses an iPhone factory of Foxconn entered a seven-day lockdown due to COVID-19, in a move likely to intensify pressure on the Apple supplier as it scrambles to quell worker discontent at the base.
The lockdown marks a re-tightening of measures in the central city of Zhengzhou, which unexpectedly lifted a quasi-lockdown on its nearly 13 million residents just the day before.