China is experiencing an outbreak of Covid-19 in large parts of the country, despite its ‘zero tolerance’ policy. The mainland reported 214 new cases of infection over the previous 24 hours, with most of those occurring in Guangdong, the southern province bordering Hong Kong, which has been recording tens of thousands per day.
More than 1,200 miles to the north, 54 cases have been reported in the Jilin province; 46 cases have been reported in Shandong in the east. During his annual report to the national legislature on Saturday, Premier Li Keqiang said China should ‘refine epidemic containment constantly,’ but did not imply that the highly touted ‘zero tolerance’ strategy might be loosened. As part of her call, Li called for accelerating vaccine development and ‘strengthening control of epidemics’ in cities with an influx of travelers and goods.
In cases where there is only a small number, ‘zero tolerance’ demands quarantines and lockdowns on entire towns and cities. Officials credit the approach with as preventing a nationwide outbreak, as well as a vaccination rate above 80%, but critics claim it is taking a major toll on the economy and preventing the population from developing natural immunity.
In Beijing, there were no new cases reported, and the city was largely back to normal. However, masks were still used indoors in public places. The religious sector continues to feel the effects of tight Covid-19 control. Three of Beijing’s most prominent Catholic churches, Buddhist temples, and mosques announced Sunday their closures were ordered in January with no date given for their reopening.
It was under heavy pressure even before the pandemic from Communist authorities to follow through on demands from leader Xi Jinping that all religious centers be cleansed of outside influence, including the physical appearance of places of worship.
The latest daily cases are among the highest since the outbreak began in late 2019 in the city of Wuhan in central China, which is believed to have started the epidemic. China’s total now stands at 111,195, with 4,636 deaths, according to the National Health Commission.