What we know about the Covid-19 outbreak in China

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

The number may seem low compared to other countries, but it is alarmingly high for a country that has tried to stem the outbreak and its chains of transmission with a strict Covid eradication policy throughout the pandemic.

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

Cases may still be in the thousands, but as of Tuesday 37 million people were in lockdown.

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

How did this wave start?

Cases began to rise at the beginning of the month in a few provinces across the country, including Shandong in the east, Guangdong in the south, and Jilin in the northeast.

By March 6, experts warned that the situation was “dangerous” in some places – but expressed confidence that “China still has the ability to control it,” the state-run tabloid. Global Times reported on time.

Jilin Province, which shares a border with North Korea, has quickly become a major hotspot with a university group that sparked public outrage online after The isolated students complained of poor conditions while isolated on campus.

More than 4,000 infections reported on Tuesday were reported in Jilin. Almost half of all infections in this outbreak came from that province — and cases there have not yet peaked, officials warned on Tuesday.

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Authorities and state media say it remains unclear how the first outbreaks began.

but several He said factors – including imported cases and the spread of the Omicron variant – have exacerbated the severity of the nationwide outbreak. Global Times, Quoted by Wu Zunyu, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

What is the variant that is spreading?

Omicron was driving the increase. One reason the cases spread so quickly and are difficult to track is because of the milder Omicron symptoms and the shorter incubation period, According to state media.

The highly contagious variant has now replaced Delta as the dominant strain in the country, which makes up 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, variable It was first discovered in January and dubbed the “ghost variant” because at first glance in lab tests it can look like other Covid variants.

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

It’s not yet clear if it causes more serious illness, but some studies suggest it won’t likely lead to greater numbers of hospitalizations and deaths, in part because it appeared so soon after the original Omicron wave, so many people have antibodies Protective, either from a recent infection or booster shots.

Residents go for a Covid-19 test in Shenzhen, China, on March 14.

What closures and restrictions are in place?

Five cities – a combined home to more than 37 million people – are now subject to varying levels of lockdown.

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

Langfang Fifth City went one step further in preventing all residents from leaving their homes except for emergency reasons.

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

Many of these cities suspended public transportation and indoor restaurants, closed Schools conduct multiple rounds of group tests for all residents. The city of Jilin began its ninth round of testing on Tuesday, with photos showing residents lining up outside under the ice, tight-fitting.

Jilin Province has also implemented travel restrictions, banning residents from leaving the province or traveling between cities within the province.

But these closures also pose a major logistical challenge to the government, with CCTV reporting that the county has only enough medical supplies for a few days.

Authorities are now racing to boost healthcare capacity in the hardest-hit areas — for example, building temporary treatment centers in Changchun and Jilin, and deploying thousands of soldiers to help Covid work, according to Global Times.

Will China stick to “zero covid”?

As infectious variants become increasingly prevalent – Delta, then Omicron – in 2021, many countries are abandoning their strict zero-Covid approach in favor of coexisting with the virus.

China and its territories, including Hong Kongwhich is also undergoing a severe wave, are the largest strongholds.

Although some Chinese leaders and scholars have hinted that China may eventually move away from strategy, that likely won’t come any time soon, if current rhetoric about bringing issues back to zero is any indication.

Han Jun, governor of Jilin Province, Monday pledge To end all community broadcasts within a week – prompting ridicule on Chinese social media, with many calling it an empty promise. Others urged him to tackle more pressing issues first, such as shortages of groceries and other essential supplies.
What Xi's chaotic shutdown reveals about China's strict bureaucracy from top to bottom
He said, “Just think how people suffered when Xi’an was aiming for ‘non-community transmission’.” 1 comment On a Twitter Weibo-like platform.
Xi’an It was closed for more than a month from December to January, with some residents complaining about not being able to get food, basic supplies like menstrual pads and even emergency medical care – painting a picture of local government dysfunction and sparking nationwide outrage.

“It is better to be fully prepared and then gradually (scanning the transmission of Covid virus),” said Weibo’s comment. “If we speed it up, people will suffer.”

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