China COVID cases more than double in growing outbreak

Omicron fuels surge in cases that is testing limits of China’s Zero COVID strategy.

A woman in a red coat and pink hat endures a nasal swab during mass testing for residents of Jilin
China has imposed lockdowns and mass testing amid an escalating outbreak of COVID-19 [AFP]

China has reported more than 5,000 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, more than double the number reported on Monday and the highest daily count since the pandemic began more than two years ago.

The National Health Commission announced 5,280 new COVID cases, including those without symptoms, on Tuesday. Unlike other countries, China does not officially classify asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 as confirmed cases, although it does release the data at the same time.

The northeastern province of Jilin, the worst-hit area, accounted for more than 3,000 cases, the commission said.

The fast-spreading Omicron variant of the coronavirus is testing China’s Zero COVID strategy, which has relied on strict border controls, compulsory testing, and tough lockdowns to keep the virus under control since it first emerged in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019.

While the numbers are low compared with countries elsewhere in the world, the more than 10,000 cases China recorded in the first two weeks of March are far higher than previous outbreaks.

No new deaths have been reported, but cases have been reported in more than a dozen provinces and major cities including Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen.

The more than 14 million people who live in Jilin have been banned from leaving the province or travelling between its cities. In the provincial capital of Changchun, residents have been locked down since Friday as authorities conduct repeated rounds of mass testing.

More than 1,000 medical workers have been flown in from other provinces along with pandemic response supplies, while military reservists have also been mobilised.

Researchers at China’s Lanzhou University have said they are confident China will bring the latest outbreak under control in early April.

In its latest COVID-19 forecast, which was published on Monday, it said total accumulated cases were likely to reach about 35,000.

The southern city of Shenzhen, which is home to 17 million people, is also under lockdown as a result of the latest outbreak, while neighbouring Hong Kong is struggling to contain an increasingly deadly surge in coronavirus cases.

Some 4,066 people have died since the latest wave of cases in the territory began on December 31, according to government data.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies