China’s daily Covid cases jumped to the highest in more than six months, as outbreaks flared across the nation and health officials declared the nation will stick with its strict virus controls.
The country reported 5,436 cases for Sunday, up 27% from the day before to the most since May 2, when Shanghai was in the midst of its months-long lockdown.
Beijing has shut schools in its most populous district, ordering students to study from home as an outbreak in the capital persists. Multiple schools in the Chaoyang district, home to corporate headquarters and embassies, halted in-person schooling from Monday, according to social media posts, although there’s been no official government statement. Beijing reported 55 new infections for Sunday.
Hopes China would start to wind back its zero-tolerance approach to the virus — fanned by unverified social media posts last week — were damped by comments from health officials over the weekend. China will “unswervingly” adhere to its current virus controls given increasingly serious outbreaks, cadres from the National Health Commission said at a highly anticipated briefing Saturday.
“Previous practices have proved that our prevention and control plans and a series of strategic measures are completely correct,” Hu Xiang, an official at the NHC’s disease prevention and control bureau, told reporters. “The policies are also the most economical and effective.”
Shares of Chinese companies tied to reopening declined in early trading Monday, led by airlines such as Air China Ltd. and Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. and restaurant groups Haidilao International Holding Ltd. and Yum China Holdings Inc.
Still, there are some embryonic signs the country is at least considering easing — or optimizing — some aspects of the policy, which sees lockdowns implemented when even one case emerges and has left China globally isolated.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Friday during a short visit to Beijing that China will make BioNTech SE’s Covid-19 vaccine available to foreigners living in the country. The announcement came after Bloomberg News reported authorities are working on plans to scrap a system that penalizes airlines for bringing virus cases into China.
Officials are also debating a potential reduction in mandatory traveler quarantine, Bloomberg reported last month, citing people familiar with the deliberations.
However, NHC officials said over the weekend that outbreaks across the country made sticking to current policies important. The central government will also ask local authorities in cities including Zhengzhou and Shenzhen to correct excessive Covid control measures, said Tuo Jia, another health commission official.
The southern manufacturing hub of Guangzhou found 1,935 cases. Haizhu, the downtown district where most of the cases were detected, is currently under a three-day lockdown announced Saturday, as local authorities struggle to reach zero transmission of the virus.
Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province and home to the world’s largest iPhone factory, reported 297 cases for Sunday, after it came under lockdown since last week. Municipal authorities pledged to take target Covid restrictions as the country’s National Health Commission named it as one of the places to have implemented overly excessive virus curbs over the weekend’s press briefing.
Apple Inc. said Sunday shipments of its newest premium iPhones will be lower than previously expected after China’s lockdowns affected operations at a supplier’s factory.