China unleashes fresh Covid lockdowns after highest number of cases reported since start of pandemic

China is reimposing strict lockdown measures, including mass testing and quarantines, in multiple cities after it registered a record number of Covid-19 cases.

China’s national health commission on Friday reported 32,695 new Covid cases, the highest figure since the outbreak of the coronavirus was suspected in Wuhan in late 2019.

This week, authorities reported the country’s first Covid-related death in six months, bringing the total deaths reported to 5,232.

The restrictions imposed under the Chinese government’s “zero-Covid” policy, which aims at stubbing out the virus outbreak at every flare-up, cover cities and towns from the southern manufacturing centre of Guangzhou to Beijing in the north.

In the eight districts of Zhengzhou in central Henan province, where the police beat workers protesting in a pay dispute at Foxconn’s iPhone factory earlier this week, more than 6 million people have been placed under lockdown for five days.

Residents were ordered to stay at home and carry out daily Covid tests in what the city administration called a “war of annihilation” against Covid.

Guangzhou imposed a five-day lockdown in the Baiyun district and asked residents to stay at home after temporarily suspending public transport.

Although measures imposed in Beijing have been less draconian than in the rest of the nation, normal life in the city has been severely disrupted, with no information on when the restrictions would be lifted.

Along with the closure of hundreds of shops, restaurants, malls and office buildings, residential compounds have been sealed off and in some places authorities have issued notices asking residents not to leave home unless absolutely necessary.

“How many people have the savings to support them if things continually stay halted?” asked a 40-year-old Beijing man surnamed Wang who works as a manager at a foreign firm.

“And even if you have money to stay at home every day, that’s not true living,” he told Reuters.

City government spokesperson Xu Hejian said on Friday it was necessary “to strengthen the management and service guarantee” of quarantine centres and field hospitals where those who test positive for Covid or have been in close contact with an infected person are transported by police.

Shanghai introduced mandatory Covid tests for those entering the city.

China’s stocks fell on Thursday, amid concerns about rising cases, overshadowing optimism from a fresh economic stimulus.