China is calling for “patience” with its tough COVID-19 policies and warns against any “war-weariness” as local cases soar to their highest since August.
Many countries are learning to co-exist with the virus, but China has repeatedly quashed any speculation of a let-up in its counter-epidemic policies, which can range from locking down a local community to sealing an entire city, even though fatalities remain low by global standards and symptoms, if any, are mostly mild.
Pressure on officials to stop outbreaks as soon as they spring up has risen in recent weeks as the highly transmissible Omicron sub-variants BF.7 and BA.5.1.7 appeared in mainland China for the first time, ensnaring travellers during a just-ended week-long national holiday.
Across China, 1939 locally transmitted cases were reported on October 9, the highest since August 20, according to Reuters calculations based on official data published on Monday.
Thousands of cases caused by the BF.7 have been reported in Inner Mongolia since October 1, turning the region into China’s latest epicentre and activating localised lockdowns, wrecking havoc on travel plans during the National Day “Golden Week” holiday.
A few days into the Golden Week, the western region of Xinjiang also barred people from leaving its borders as cases started to tick higher. Tourists who are stranded in Xinjiang could seek temporary work as electricians, cooks and wood craftsmen, advised authorities in its capital Urumqi.
Shanghai, which locked down its entire population of 25 million in April and May, reported 34 local cases on October 9, the most in almost three months.
“The transmission and pathogenicity (of Omicron) have not weakened, and it still poses a relatively large threat to the elderly and people with underlying diseases,” according to a commentary in the state-owned People’s Daily on Monday.
“It is for this reason that we must continue to remain vigilant against the spread of the epidemic, increase our confidence and patience in our country’s epidemic prevention and control policies, and overcome any numbness of the mind, any war-weariness, any thought of leaving things to chance, and any complacency.”
The restrictions came just days before a once-every-five-years Communist Party congress starting on October 16, where Xi Jinping is widely expected to extend his decade-long leadership for another five years.
While most of the new infections in Shanghai were detected in quarantine, the city’s Putuo and Changning districs weren’t taking any chances, announcing on Monday the suspension of leisure and entertainment venues.
One of the recent Changning cases was a man who arrived from Xinjiang on October 2. He was declared a carrier five days later.
Guests at the hotel where he stayed have been locked down. Patrons to the bars and restaurants he visited have been treated as close contacts.