China orders lockdowns and mass testing after record COVID spike | Coronavirus Pandemic News

China has ordered mass testing in the eastern city of Nanjing in Jiangsu province, the latest measure as the country reported a record number of COVID-19 infections for the second straight day since the pandemic began.

China on Friday reported more than 33,000 infections over the past 24 hours, up from more than 31,000 reported on Thursday. The vast majority of cases were asymptomatic.

The numbers on Thursday and Friday surpassed a previous record from April of almost 30,000 cases. That surge resulted in the commercial hub of Shanghai, home to 25 million people, being locked down for two months.

The latest wave has been accompanied by restrictions that are slowly tightening across the country, which has a controversial zero-COVID policy aimed at eradicating the virus entirely.

This also comes as the virus is evolving to evade immunity, with China “remaining somewhat undervaccinated and the vaccines used were not as effective as the mRNA vaccines used in the western world,” according to Patrick Fang, department head in Pathology Sciences at Sidra Medicine, opposite Al Jazeera.

“So their population is more vulnerable and the virus is highly transmissible,” he said.

In Nanjing, authorities ordered mass testing to begin on Saturday for five consecutive days.

Meanwhile in Zhengzhou, home of the world’s largest iPhone factory, residents in eight districts have been told not to leave the area, despite only a handful of cases being reported there.

The lockdown follows protests by hundreds of workers over conditions and payments at Foxconn’s huge factory on the outskirts of the city, with pictures of rallies emerging on Friday.

In Guangzhou’s southeast manufacturing hub, millions of people have been told not to leave their homes without testing negative for the virus.

Al Jazeera’s Patrick Fok, reporting from Hong Kong, said Chinese officials seem “to be communicating things much more quietly, either through WeChat groups or local communities.”

“There are many reasons why this is happening, and part of it is to try to avoid any unrest among the people of China,” he said.

Still, cases of panic buying have been reported in Beijing, where makeshift quarantine centers and field hospitals have been hastily erected in gymnasiums and exhibition centers.

The Associated Press news agency reported that residents in some areas have been told not to leave their properties, some of which are fenced off.

The relentless zero-COVID approach has sparked sporadic protests and hurt productivity in the world’s second largest economy.

Still, Fok said recent restrictions show China is likely far from changing policy.

“There have been many discussions that China will pull out of this around March when China’s parliamentary session is held,” he said. “But it looks like it’s going to take longer. Mainly because of people’s perceptions of the virus and that creates a lot of economic uncertainty going forward.”

The Chinese economy grew by just 3 percent in the first three quarters of this year, well below the annual target of around 5.5 percent.

Analysts generally expect growth for the year as a whole to be just over 3 percent.

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