China extends lockdowns as part of “zero COVID” policy
China isincluding in a central city where factory workers as the number of COVID-19 cases hit a one-day record.
People in eight districts of Zhengzhou, which has a total population of 6.6 million, have been ordered to stay at home for five days from Thursday except to buy groceries or receive medical treatment. Daily mass testing has been ordered in what the city government has called a “war of annihilation” against the virus.
In clashes Tuesday and Wednesday, Zhengzhou police beat workers protesting a wage dispute at Apple’s largest iPhone factory.
Across China, 31,444 new cases were reported in the past 24 hours, the National Health Commission said on Thursday. This is the highest number of days since the coronavirus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.
The daily average of reported cases is steadily increasing. This week, authorities reported China’s first COVID-19 deaths in six months, bringing the total to 5,232.
While the number of cases and deaths is relatively small compared to the US and other countries, the ruling Chinese Communist Party remains committed to its “zero COVID” strategy, which aims to isolate every case and eliminate the virus completely, while other governments are ending antivirus controls and relying on vaccination and immunity from previous infections to prevent deaths and serious illnesses.
Businesses and residential communities from manufacturing hub Guangzhou in the south to Beijing in the north have also been subjected to various forms of lockdown, measures that particularly affect migrant workers. In many cases, residents say the restrictions go beyond what the national government allows.
Guangzhou on Monday suspended access to its Baiyun district of 3.7 million people, while residents in some areas of Shijiazhuang, a city of 11 million southwest of Beijing, were told to stay home while mass testing is carried out.
Beijing this week opened a hospital at an exhibition center and blocked access to Beijing International Studies University after a virus case was found there. The capital had previously closed shopping malls and office buildings and blocked access to some residential complexes.
The tightening comes after the Communist Party announced measures this month to try to lessen disruption by shortening quarantines and making other changes.
The party is trying to contain the recent wave of outbreaks without shutting down factories and the rest of its economy like it did in early 2020. Their tactics include “closed-loop management,” in which workers live in their factories incommunicado.
Economic growth rebounded to 3.9% yoy in the three months to September, up from 2.2% in the first half. But activity has already started to fall behind and growth for the year is on track to fall well short of the government’s 5.5% target.
Foxconn, the world’s largest contract manufacturer of smartphones and other electronics, is struggling to fill iPhone 14 orders after thousands of workers walked out of the Zhengzhou factory last month after complaining about unsafe working conditions.
Taiwan-based Foxconn said its contractual obligation to make payments “has always been met.”
The company denied there were comments online that employees with the virus were living in dormitories at the Zhengzhou factory. The facilities were disinfected and inspected by the government before staff moved in.