Wave of cases tests China’s COVID-19 strategy

Authorities said an 87-year-old man died in Beijing on Saturday, the first COVID-19 death announced since May.

November 20, 2022 10:56 pm | Updated November 21, 2022 12:35 am IST - Beijing

Pandemic prevention workers in protective suits walk outside a locked-down residential compound as outbreaks of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continue in Beijing, China on November 18, 2022.

Pandemic prevention workers in protective suits walk outside a locked-down residential compound as outbreaks of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continue in Beijing, China on November 18, 2022. | Photo Credit: Reuters

China on Saturday reported its first official COVID-19 death in close to six months as the country battled a record wave of cases that have tested the government’s “zero-COVID” strategy.

An 87-year-old man died in Beijing on Saturday, the first death announced by authorities since May when Shanghai was battling a wave of cases and faced a two month lockdown.

The Chinese capital was this weekend in a state of partial lock down. While there was no sweeping lockdown order as was seen in Shanghai earlier this year – a reflection of a new “targeted” approach following a recent easing of rules – most restaurants and schools have closed, with the capital reporting more than 600 cases on Sunday.

While the high numbers would have triggered a city-wide lockdown in the past, the Communist Party leadership recently announced 20 measures aimed at easing sweeping restrictions. Maintaining that the “zero-COVID” policy was still in effect, the new measures call for more targeted and precise lockdowns, for instance closing off specific buildings rather than entire districts or cities. Under the new measures, mass testing in cities is being discouraged while secondary contacts of positive cases are no longer traced or quarantined.

The amended approach is now being tested both in Beijing and in Guangzhou, the southern manufacturing hub that accounted for one-third of the more than 24,000 national cases reported on Sunday.

Chinese authorities have persisted with “zero-COVID” three years into the pandemic, citing the low elderly vaccination rates that would result in mass deaths if the country opened up fully. Only two-thirds of the elderly population have received a booster. State media in China also continue to emphasise the seriousness of COVID-19 as a life-threatening illness, and have warned against living with the virus in contrast to the rest of the world.

“If several million elderly people above 80 years of age have not been vaccinated, it will pose a potential risk,” Hong Kong University virologist Jin Dongyan told the South China Morning Post on Sunday. “The most important point is public education. You should give the correct information to the public. Many people’s understanding of Covid still remains at the level of the initial [2020] outbreak in Wuhan. Therefore, this is what needs to be explained better.”

Top News Today

Comments

Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.