China Struggling to Contain Major COVID Outbreak

COVID-19 cases reach record highs . . . 

While many countries have begun opening their borders and reducing pandemic-related restrictions, China faces its most severe outbreak since the initial detection of the virus in Wuhan two years ago. On Monday, 1,437 new cases were confirmed. That number more than doubled overnight to over 3,500on Tuesday, pushing the total cases recorded in Mainland China since March 1 to well over 10,000. The southern region has seen a noticeable uptick in cases, due in part to its proximity to Hong Kong, which has recorded more than 500,000 cases and 2,300 COVID-related deaths since January. The majority of Tuesday’s cases, however, were reported in Jilin province in China’s northeast. To combat growing infection rates, Beijing has imposed lockdowns and partial lockdowns in virus hotspots, such as Shenzhen and Jilin City, accompanied by several rounds of testing.

How did case counts get so high?

As of March 6, Hong Kong’s death rate from COVID of nine people per one million was the highest recorded among developed countries. Many have claimed that the primary drivers of Hong Kong’s sudden case spread include its low vaccination rate and minimal herd immunity, the latter a result of lack of exposure due to the government’s COVID-zero policy. Over 90 per cent of Hong Kong residents who have died from COVID during the current outbreak were unvaccinated, and some experts expect the death rate to climb as only roughly 62 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated. However, others argue that inconsistent government messaging and not prioritizing the most severe cases are to blame. Frontline medics have noted that despite a large number of patients in critical care, resources are being allocated to patients with minor symptoms in government-organized isolation facilities.

Hong Kong’s COVID crisis souring relations with Mainland . . .

The growing case counts in Mainland China have been accompanied by resentment towards Hong Kong, particularly in southern China, in part due to its proximity to Hong Kong and the flow of goods and people between the two regions. As Shenzhen, one of Guangdong’s largest cities, goes into lockdown, residents have expressed hostility towards Hong Kong, even going so far as to call for a border closure. However, locally transmitted cases have skyrocketed in Shenzhen since early March, most likely due to Omicron’s high infection rate and the significant number of people that have contracted the virus but remain asymptomatic.