Covid cases in China hit a record high as opposition mounts due to strict restrictions


China on Thursday reported a record number of daily COVID-19 infections, as a rise in the number of cases nationwide adds pressure to the country’s increasingly unpopular zero-tolerance approach to the virus.

The National Health Commission (NHC) recorded 31,444 locally transmitted cases on Wednesday – surpassing the previous peak of 29,317 recorded on April 13 during Shanghai’s months-long lockdown.

The rise is fueled by outbreaks in multiple cities, and comes despite authorities’ refusal to end tight infection controls even in the face of a growing — and unprecedented — backlash against their hardline approach of continued lockdowns, quarantines and mass testing mandates.

Meanwhile, a handful of Covid-related deaths have added more pressure to the mix. Beijing on Wednesday recorded its fourth Covid-related death since last weekend, along with 1,648 local infections – its third straight day of more than 1,000 local cases.

On Thursday, city officials said they were converting a major exhibition center into a makeshift hospital to quarantine and treat Covid patients.

This was the latest sign of capital stepping up covid controls. Earlier this week, schools in several districts moved classes online while Chaoyang — the epicenter of the city’s outbreak and home to many international businesses and embassies — urged residents to stay home and closed restaurants, gyms and beauty salons.

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Video shows a rare protest in Beijing as the Chinese leader prepares to extend his rule

China, the world’s last major economy still to implement strict coronavirus measures, announced a limited easing of policy earlier this month in what some observers saw as a sign of the government acknowledging its shortcomings.

It discouraged unnecessary mass testing and overzealous classification of restricted areas as “high risk”, eliminated quarantine requirements for secondary close contacts, and reduced quarantines for close contacts and international arrivals.

After the announcement, many Chinese cities canceled mass Covid tests, but there remains a bewildering array of restrictions for residents to move around – especially when outbreaks occur.

Signs that people are fed up are becoming increasingly dramatic and rare protests have erupted in a country where the authorities have traditionally suppressed any signs of dissent.

Protests broke out this week at the world’s largest iPhone assembly plant, in Zhengzhou. Videos on social media showed workers confronting riot police after authorities tried to shut down the facility in the wake of the outbreak. It comes a week after some residents in Guangzhou, a southern manufacturing hub, revolted against the extended lockdown by removing barriers and marching on the streets.

Fueling the anger of citizens caught up in the lockdowns are recurring issues such as the inability to access urgent medical care or secure enough food and supplies, or the loss of work and income.

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Crowd is breaking down street barriers as anger over Covid restrictions builds

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