China’s zero-Covid policy faces major challenge — Analysis

Covid case spike in Xi’an challenges Beijing’s plan to stop outbreaks at the source

More than 1,000 Covid-19 cases have been recorded in the Chinese city of Xi’an since December 9. Despite a local lockdown, infection numbers have continued to grow, testing Beijing’s zero-Covid policy.

On Thursday, authorities in Xi’an, a city in Shaanxi Province, reported that 155 new locally transmitted cases were identified on December 29. With this number, the number of locally transmitted cases has risen to over 1,100 since December 9, when it first started.

“Xi’an has reached a live-or-die stage in its fight against the virus,”Zhang Fenghu is a representative of the city government and spoke to a news conference Wednesday. This is China’s worst outbreak of the year.

A week ago, 13 million residents were placed under lockdown. This included closing non-essential stores and preventing all new restaurants from being opened. The city was also instructed to not allow residents to leave the area unless they were positive for the virus.

Residents have had police sent to their homes to enforce the rules. The current rules allow only one household member to leave the home in order to shop for essential items every other day.

Restrictions were stepped up again this week, with officials banning any cars from being on the road unless they’re aiding disease prevention measures. Those who break the rules could face 10 days’ detention and a fine of 500 yuan ($78).

On Thursday, authorities began a sixth round in-city testing to try and track the spread of the disease. 

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Two of the world’s largest memory-chip makers, Samsung Electronics and Micron Technology, have said that the lockdown may impact production from their facilities in the area.

To date, China has only reported 101,890 confirmed Covid-19 cases since the pandemic began – a figure less than the daily record in France and the UK. French Health Minister announced Wednesday that France had broken the European Daily Case Record with over 200 000 infections. It is important to note that the Chinese data does not include symptomatic cases.

Beijing insists upon a zero Covid policy ever since the end of the initial wave. Many cities are often locked down even though only a handful have been found.

With the increasing number of highly contagious varieties emerging, as well as growing concerns over the effectiveness of Chinese vaccines against coronavirus, more people are being tested for the zero-Covid strategy.

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