BEIJING, Nov 25 (Reuters) – In China, frustration boiled among residents and business groups traversing tighter COVID-19 control restrictions as the country reported another historic high in daily infections on Friday, just weeks after hopes of lockdown measures were awakened.
The resurgence of COVID cases in China, with 32,695 new local infections recorded for Thursday as numerous cities report outbreaks, has led to widespread lockdowns and other restrictions on movement and business, as well as pushbacks.
The French Chamber of Commerce in China urged authorities to properly implement COVID “optimization” measures announced two weeks ago, in a statement that was widely circulated on social media after the French embassy shared it on its Twitter-like on Thursday Weibo account published.
The 20 measures, which include shortened quarantines and other more targeted steps, would have given French companies “hope” for more bilateral trade and economic exchanges, but “good policies must also be implemented consistently and without further layers of conflicting policy,” the report said Chamber statement.
The announcement of the 20 measures has caused widespread confusion and uncertainty in major cities, including Beijing, where many residents are confined at home, just as rising cases have prompted an increasingly fierce response under China’s strict zero-COVID approach.
The world’s largest iPhone factory in Zhengzhou has hired more than 20,000 people this week following COVID-related labor unrest, further threatening production at Apple’s Foxconn plant there, Reuters reported on Friday. Continue reading
References to a speech by a man in the southwestern city of Chongqing urging the government to admit its mistakes regarding COVID have been widely circulated on Chinese social media despite the work of censorship.
“Give me liberty or death,” the bespectacled man said Thursday in an impassioned speech to residents at the gate of a compound, according to videos seen by Reuters.
“There is only one disease in the world, and that is both being poor and having no freedom,” he added. “We have both now. We’re still fighting and suffering from a little cold.”
The man was later seen being bundled into a police car by security guards, prompting angry screams from bystanders.
Hashtags related to the man, whom netizens have dubbed “Chongqing’s Superman brother” or “Chongqing hero,” were censored on Friday. But individual users continued to show support by posting subtle messages or cartoon images of him.
As lockdowns affect more and more people, some residents are proposing alternative approaches for their communities. In Beijing, residents of some compounds shared suggestions on WeChat about how infected neighbors could be quarantined at home if they showed no serious symptoms.
It is not clear whether such proposals would succeed.
Notices detailing the circumstances in which health workers may remove a person from their home to educate people about their rights when asked to be taken to a quarantine center have also been circulated online.
Oxford Economics senior economist Louise Loo said in a note that reports of public discontent in provinces undergoing partial or full lockdowns have been gaining momentum, as was the case with the last major outbreak in April, although these are “still not reflect a large-scale collective action”.
“We continue to expect officials to be able to respond quickly to contain the social risk of escalating protests, either through a combination of tighter information controls or a gradual easing of restrictions,” Loo said.
Although April’s outbreak was concentrated in Shanghai, this time the clusters of cases are numerous and widespread.
The southern city of Guangzhou and southwestern Chongqing have seen the bulk of cases, although cities including Beijing, Chengdu, Jinan, Lanzhou, Xian and Wuhan have reported hundreds of new infections each day.
Guangzhou, a southern city of nearly 19 million people, reported 7,524 new locally transmitted cases, while Chongqing reported 6,500 cases.
Beijing reported 1,860 cases on Thursday, while the number in the northern city of Shijiazhuang quadrupled.
Reporting by Martin Quin Pollard, Shanghai and Beijing newsrooms; writing by Bernard Orr and Liz Lee; Edited by Shri Navaratnam, Gerry Doyle and Tony Munroe
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