- The sharp rises in daily COVID-19 infections recorded by China raise concerns about the economic cost of disease containment.
- China’s zero-COVID approach has led to shipping delay warnings from manufacturers, putting pressure on global supply chains.
- A US analyst suggests that the zero-tolerance approach provides a declining return relative to the rapid infection rates of the Omicron variant.
China took a steep leap in daily COVID-19 infections on March 15, with new cases more than doubling from a day earlier to reach a two-year high, raising concerns about the rising economic costs of its tough measures to to limit the disease.
A total of 3,507 domestically transmitted cases with confirmed symptoms were reported in more than a dozen provinces and municipalities, up from 1,337 a day earlier, the National Health Commission said.
Most of the new cases were in the northeastern province of Jilin.
Although China’s caseload is still small by global standards, health experts said the rise in daily infections over the next few weeks would be key to determining whether its “dynamic zero-COVID” approach, with limiting each outbreak quickly, as it occurs, remains effective against the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.
Manufacturers of everything from flash drives to glass to Apple’s iPhone screens warn of shipping delays as they comply with China’s restrictions on the disease, putting further pressure on global supply chains.
The steep rise has raised concerns about China’s growth prospects, and has helped lower market sentiment, with equities closing at a 21-month low on March 15 and oil prices falling to a two-week low.
A COVID-19 prognosis system operated by Lanzhou University in northwestern China predicted that the current round of infections would eventually be brought under control in early April after an accumulated total of about 35,000 cases.
On Monday, March 14, the university said that while the most recent outbreak was the most severe on the mainland since the virus was discovered in Wuhan in 2020, China was able to bring it under control by sticking to strict restrictions.
Not only is China’s zero-tolerance approach becoming more expensive, it is yielding a declining return on highly contagious Omicron, said analyst Yanzhong Huang of the US think tank Council on Foreign Relations.
“Now we have two of the richest Chinese cities, Shanghai and Shenzhen, both under lockdown: how will that affect the Chinese economy?” he asked.
Shanghai is not under lockdown and does not need a “moment” as it strives to minimize disruption in daily life, the city council said. Read more
The city will designate a few key areas where control will be further strengthened, while elsewhere people’s movements will need to be reduced through measures such as staggered commuting or teleworking, it added in a statement.
The government in the southern city of Shenzhen has designated the week of outbreak control as a period of “slow life”, with buses and subways, marriages and funeral services all suspended, and daily tests ordered for some residents.
China’s aviation authority said 106 international flights to arrive in Shanghai will be diverted to other domestic cities from March 21 to May 1 due to COVID.
Nearly 90% of the mainland’s new local symptomatic cases on Monday 14 March were in Jilin, which has restricted travel for its 24.1 million people without notifying police. Read more
Jilin officials should step up efforts to ensure the isolation of all infected cases and close contacts, a local newspaper quoted the provincial leader of China’s ruling Communist Party as saying.
The northern city of Langfang ordered its 5.5 million inhabitants to stay indoors on Tuesday, March 15th.
Monday’s figures for new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, were 1,768, up from 906 a day earlier. Without new deaths, the figure was unchanged at 4,636.
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