China Battles Biggest COVID Surge Since Wuhan

City of 17.5M has been locked down
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 14, 2022 5:25 PM CDT
China Battles Biggest COVID Surge Since Wuhan
Residents walk their dog past shuttered shops in the Huaqiangbei area, the world's biggest electronics market, in Shenzhen, Monday, March 14, 2022.   (Chinatopix Via AP)

As much of the rest of the world is lifting COVID restrictions, China is battling to contain its worst wave of the virus since Wuhan in 2020. Shenzhen, a tech business hub in southern China that's home to 17.5 million people, was locked down on Sunday, and Jilin, a province of 24 million people, was locked down Monday after almost 900 new cases were reported, the Guardian reports. Anybody seeking to leave the northeastern province, where the city of Changchun was locked down last week, will have to seek permission from police. Residents are also barred from moving from city to city without permission. Thousands of military reservists have been called up to perform tasks including disinfecting streets.

A total of 1,437 new cases in dozens of cities were reported in mainland China on Monday, along with almost 27,000 in Hong Kong, where an outbreak of the omicron variant has been raging out of control for weeks. Restrictions including school closures and travel bans have been stepped up in Shanghai and other major cities. Despite the surge in cases and the strain on resources, authorities say they plan to stick to a "zero COVID" strategy of quashing outbreaks through lockdowns and mandatory mass testing, the South China Morning Post reports.

Zhang Wenhong, a prominent infectious disease expert in Shanghai, warned in an essay Monday that China is about to see an "exponential rise" in cases caused by the BA2 "stealth omicron" subvariant, the AP reports. "If our country opens up quickly now, it will cause a large number of infections in people in a short period of time," Zhang wrote. "No matter how low the death rate is, it will still cause a run on medical resources and a short term shock to social life, causing irreparable harm to families and society." (Read more China stories.)

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