China extends lockdown as COVID-19 cases reach daily record

BEIJING (AP) – A pandemic lockdown is expanding across China, including in a city where factory workers clashed with police this week as the number of COVID-19 cases reached a daily record.

Residents in eight districts of Zhengzhou, home to 6.6 million people, were told to stay at home for five days starting Thursday except to buy food or receive medical treatment. Daily mass testing was ordered in what the city government called a “war of annihilation” against the virus.

Tuesday and Wednesday during the struggle, Zhengzhou police beat workers protesting a wage dispute at Apple’s biggest iPhone factory, located in an industrial area near the city. Foxconn, the Taiwan-based owner of the factory, apologized on Thursday For this it is called “an input error in the computer system” and states that it will guarantee that the salary is what is agreed upon in the official recruitment posters.

The National Health Commission on Thursday said that in the last 24 hours, the number of new COVID cases increased by 31,444. It is the highest daily figure since the coronavirus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.

The daily case load is continuously increasing. This week, officials 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 low compared to the US and other countries, China’s ruling Communist Party remains committed to a “zero-Covid” strategy that aims to isolate every case and eradicate the virus completely. Most other governments have ended anti-virus controls and now rely on vaccination and immunity from previous infections to help prevent deaths and severe disease.

Businesses and residential communities from the manufacturing hub of Guangzhou in the south to Beijing in the north are under various forms of lockdown, measures that particularly hit blue-collar migrant workers. In many cases, residents say the restrictions go beyond what is permitted by the national government.

Guangzhou on Monday suspended access to its Baiyun district of 3.7 million residents, while residents in some areas of Shijiazhuang, a city of 11 million people southwest of Beijing, to stay home while mass testing is carried out. Was said.

Beijing opened a hospital in an exhibition center. It suspended access to Beijing International Studies University after a case of the virus was found there. Some shopping malls and office buildings were closed and access to some apartment complexes was blocked.

Suggesting some of those measures may be at least semi-permanent, workers were erecting 2-metre (7-foot) high fences around aging, low-rise brick apartment buildings in Beijing’s Hongmiao Beili community .

A half-dozen people in hazmat suits worked at the entrance to an alley running through the community, usually standing behind waist-high steel barriers for crowd control.

Officials had announced measures to try to reduce disruption from pandemic control by shortening quarantines and making other changes. Some Chinese have expressed frustration and confusion about the apparent policy reversal on social media.

Foreign ministry spokesman Mao Ning said at a daily news conference that while China’s borders remain largely closed, the government is “regulating exit and entry procedures for executives and special personnel of multinational companies and foreign businesses and their family members in China”. Customizing and facilitating the Thursday.

Mao said China would continue to improve various COVID protocols “in accordance with science-based and targeted principles” to help facilitate travel and cooperation and exchanges with other countries.

A major issue is how vulnerable people are to the virus. Few Chinese have caught COVID or even been exposed to the virus, so only a small percentage are thought to have built up effective levels of virus-fighting antibodies.

The overall coronavirus vaccination rate in China is over 92%, with most people having received at least one dose. But very few older Chinese — especially those over the age of 80 — have received the shots.

The government is trying to contain the latest wave of the outbreak in early 2020 without shutting down factories and the rest of the economy. ,

Foxconn, the world’s biggest contract assembler of smartphones and other electronics, is struggling to fill orders for the iPhone 14 after thousands of workers walked out of a factory in Zhengzhou last month following complaints about unsafe working conditions.

The protests on Tuesday and Wednesday were prompted by a disagreement over pay for employees who were recruited to replace those who left. The workers had a scuffle with the police and some were even beaten up. Some were arrested.

Foxconn denied that, saying in comments online that workers with the virus lived in dormitories at the Zhengzhou factory. It said the facilities had been disinfected and had passed government checks before the staff arrived.


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