What we know about China’s Covid-19 outbreak
What we know about China’s Covid-19 outbreak

What we know about China’s Covid-19 outbreak

This outbreak has spread much faster than previous waves of less contagious varieties, with daily cases rising from a few dozen in February to more than 5,100 on Tuesday – the highest number since the early outbreak in Wuhan in 2020.

The figure may sound low compared to other countries, but it is alarmingly high for a nation that has tried to eradicate outbreaks and chains of infection with a strict zero-Covid policy throughout the pandemic.

As of Tuesday, cases have been reported in 21 provinces and municipalities nationwide, including the national capital Beijing and other major cities such as Shanghai and Shenzhen.

The cases may still be in the thousands, but as of Tuesday, 37 million people were closed.

Here’s what we know about China’s outbreak.

How did this wave start?

Cases began to rise earlier this month in a few provinces around the country, including Shandong in the east, Guangdong in the south and Jilin in the northeast.

On March 6, experts warned that the situation was “serious” in some places – but they expressed confidence that “China still has the ability to control it,” state-run tabloid It reported the Global Times back then.

Jilin Province, which shares a border with North Korea, quickly became a major hotspot with a university cluster leading to public outrage online after quarantine students complained about poor conditions while isolating themselves on campus.

More than 4,000 of Tuesday’s reported infections were reported in Jilin. Nearly half of the total infections in this outbreak have come from that province – and cases that have not peaked yet, officials warned Tuesday.

Authorities and state media say it is still not clear how the first few outbreaks began.

But more factors – including cases imported from abroad and the prevalence of the Omicron variant – exacerbated the severity of the outbreak nationwide, said Global Times, quotes Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Which variant is spreading?

Omicron has driven this increase. One of the reasons why cases have spread so fast and are harder to detect is Omicron’s milder symptoms and shorter incubation time, according to state media.

The highly infectious variant has now replaced Delta as the dominant strain in the country and accounts for about 80% of recent cases, Wu told the Global Times.
New studies bring the BA.2 variant into sharper focus
He added that experts see both BA.1 – the original Omicron – and BA.2, a undervariant which was first discovered in January and was nicknamed the “stealth variant” because at first glance on laboratory tests it may look like other Covid variants.

BA.2 is about 30% more transferable than BA.1 according to early studies from the UK and Denmark. It now causes about 1 in 5 Covid-19 cases worldwide, with cases detected in dozens of countries including the United States, according to the World Health Organization. BA.2 has been detected in the eruption in Jilin, according to the state-run news media CCTV.

It is not yet clear if it causes more serious illness, but some studies suggest that it is unlikely to lead to a greater number of hospitalizations and deaths, in part because it occurred so quickly after the original Omicron wave that so many people have protective antibodies, either from recent infection or booster shots.

Residents' line for the Covid-19 test in Shenzhen, China, on March 14.

What lockdowns and restrictions are in place?

Five cities – together home to more than 37 million inhabitants – are now below varying levels of lockdown.

Residents of Changchun, Jilin City, Shenzhen and Dongguan are prohibited from leaving their neighborhoods except for necessary workers and emergency services. Each household may only send one person to buy groceries every two to three days.

The fifth town, Langfang, went a step further by forbidding all residents to leave their homes except for reasons of distress.

Workers carry out epidemic prevention and control of disinfection work in Qingdao, China, on March 14.

Several of these cities have suspended public transportation and indoor dining, closed schools and performs several rounds of mass testing for all residents. Jilin city started its ninth test round on Tuesday, with photos showing residents queuing outside in the snow, bundled tightly together.

Jilin Province has also implemented travel restrictions that prohibit residents from leaving the province or traveling between cities in the province.

But these shutdowns also pose a huge logistical challenge for the government, with CCTV reporting that the province has only a few days’ medical supplies in stock.

Authorities are now driving to increase health capacity in hard-hit areas – for example, by building temporary treatment centers in Changchun and Jilin City and deploying thousands of troops to help Covid control the work, according to the Global Times.

Will China stick to zero-Covid?

As more and more infectious variants – Delta, then Omicron – spread in 2021, many countries abandoned the strict zero-Covid approach in favor of living with the virus.

China and its territories, including Hong Kongalso undergoing a severe wave are the biggest holdouts.

Although some Chinese leaders and scientists have suggested that China could eventually move away from the strategy, it is unlikely to come immediately if the current rhetoric of bringing cases back to zero is any indication.

Han Jun, Governor of Jilin Province, promised Monday to end all community transmissions within a week – leading to ridicule on Chinese social media, which many call an empty promise. Others urged him to first address more pressing issues, such as the lack of groceries and other important supplies.
What Xi'an's chaotic lockdown reveals about China's uncompromising top-down bureaucracy
“Just think of how people suffered when Xi’an aimed at ‘zero-community transfer,'” he said. a comment on the Twitter-like platform Weibo.
Byen Xi’an was locked up for more than a month from December to January, with some residents complaining that they were unable to receive food, basic supplies such as menstrual pads and even emergency medical care – and painted a picture of local government dysfunction and triggered public outcry. in the whole country.

“It’s better to be fully prepared and then gradually (clear Covid transmission),” the Weibo comment said. “If we hurry, people will suffer.”

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