China has locked up 1.7 million people in central Anhui province, where authorities on Monday reported nearly 300 new cases in the latest of a series of outbreaks that tested Beijing’s non-tolerant approach to COVID-19.
The country is the last major economy committed to a zero-Covid strategy, responding to all cases with strict isolation orders and heavy testing campaigns.
The outbreak in Anhui – where officials first found hundreds of cases last week – comes as the Chinese economy begins to recover from a months-long lockdown in Shanghai and disruptive Covid restrictions in the capital Beijing.
Two counties in the province – Sixian and Lingbi – announced lockdowns last week, with more than 1.7 million residents allowed to leave their homes only if tested.
Footage from state broadcaster CCTV last weekend showed empty streets in Sixian and people queuing for their sixth round of mass testing over the past few days.
The province reported 287 new infections on Monday, including 258 people who had no symptoms, according to China’s National Health Commission, bringing the total number of cases found to just over 1,000.
Provincial Governor Wang Qingxian urged local authorities to “take advantage of every minute and quickly conduct rapid screening”, as well as rapid quarantine and case reporting, in a statement released Monday by the Anhui government.
Neighboring Jiangsu province also reported 56 new local infections in four cities on Monday.
While the number of cases remains low compared to China’s massive population, officials insist zero-Covid policies are necessary to avert a health-care disaster, pointing to unevenly distributed medical resources and low vaccination rates among the elderly .
But the strategy has hammered the world’s second-largest economy, and heavy-handed enforcement has sparked rare protests in the tightly controlled country.
China’s international isolation has also left some foreign companies and families with the financial resources to make exit plans.
National authorities last month announced a reduced quarantine requirement for international arrivals, attracting most Asian markets as investors hoped the move could give a boost to Beijing’s Covid-collapsed economy.
But health official Lei Zhenglong has maintained that the new quarantine policy was “definitely not a relaxation of (Covid) prevention and control”.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by DailyExpertNews staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)