China in fresh Covid horror as 210m thrown in lockdown over variant

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China is facing a major coronavirus outbreak with over 200 million people plunged back into lockdown following the emergence of two “highly contagious” variants. Some 28 cities across the country, including the capital Beijing and Wuhan, where the virus first originated, are currently in lockdown. Data shows nearly 208 million people are currently living under varying degrees of lockdown in China. These cities have become the latest victims of the Chinese government’s aggressive “zero-Covid” strategy, which it has followed since the virus first broke out. As cases spike across the country, health officials have pointed toward two highly contagious subvariant of Omicron – BF.7 and BA.5.1.7 as being responsible. 

Chinese officials described the new strains of Omicron as “highly contagious”, adding that they can also infect people who had been previously immune.

Economic analysis firm Nomura told the Sun: “According to government statistics and our survey, 28 cities are currently implementing various levels of lockdown or some kind of district-based control measures.”

In their analysis, they found that the 210 million figure is actually much lower than the previous week’s figure of 225 million. However, the number the cities facing the strictest forms of lockdown have actually increased.

As a result, even though the seven-day-moving average of cases also dropped from 1,333 to 820, China’s economy has taken a hit, impacting 8.5 percent of the country’s GDP.

While these cases would be considered relatively mild in many Western countries, officials in Beijing have deemed it enough to spark a major lockdown across dozens of cities.

For scale, over three times the population of the UK is currently facing lockdown restrictions in China.

The latest figures out of China are modest compared to the tens of thousands of new daily cases seen in Shanghai back in April — a situation which strained the city’s health and quarantine facilities leading to the controversial relocation of the sick to surrounding areas.

Despite this, however, Beijing shows no signs of compromising on its approach to the virus, bringing in new restrictions across the country as the highly-transmissible Omicron variant continues to spread.

In Beijing, for example, this week saw the Universal Resort shut down after just one visitor tested positive for coronavirus.

Despite facing no deaths since May, Xi Jinping has vowed to stuck to the Zero Covid policy, even as the country’s economy takes a battering. This has led to some experts describing the policy as a “trap of its own making” for the Communist Party.

Virologist Jin Dongyan, from Hong Kong University, told The Washington Post: “If they open up now, there will be a major outbreak immediately. However, even if they do not open up, a major outbreak will sooner or later arise somewhere.”

Scientists have said that China’s approach to dealing with Covid is “not sustainable” and “someone has made the wrong judgment”, with Dr Jin adding: “They wrongly assessed the situation in the world, and they cannot come out from their own comfort zone.”

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As one 38-year-old Wuhan resident told Reuters: “I don’t know what to do. If we can still survive living like this then I suppose that’s what we’ll do.

“When we see these news stories about COVID, we now feel a bit numb. We feel numb to it all. We feel more and more numb.”

Another local resident Wen Bihan, 26, told Reuters: “Once there’s a case somewhere, and then you become a close contact, you’ve got to be in quarantine.”

Mr Wen said that he has already been placed in isolation in a quarantine facility on two separate occasions. He added: “It’s nerve-racking.”

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