XI urges China to maintain strict Covid-19 policy amid rise in cases

Firms allowed to reopen in Shenzhen where 17.5m residents being tested daily

Chinese president Xi Jinping has urged the country to take more effective Covid-19 measures and minimise the impact of the epidemic on economic development, state television said on Thursday, as the country battles a new wave of infections.

China is fighting its biggest wave of locally transmitted Covid-19 cases since it contained the initial outbreak centred on Wuhan in 2020. Even as much of the world has relaxed or ended coronavirus restrictions, millions of people in northeastern China are under lockdown and authorities have imposed restrictions on business activities and cargo transport in major cities such as Shenzhen.

More than two dozen regions have reported infections in the past few weeks, despite a tiny caseload by global standards, putting pressure on China’s “dynamic-clearance” policy that aims to curb flare-ups quickly as they arise.

China should curb the momentum of the virus spread as soon as possible while sticking to the “dynamic-clearance” policy, Mr Xi told a meeting of the Politburo, the ruling Communist Party’s top decision-making body.

Officials in areas with serious outbreaks should treat Covid control work as their top priority, and those whose dereliction of duty caused the outbreak to get out of control must be held accountable, state television reported, citing the Politburo meeting.

Earlier, a city official said the technology hub of Shenzhen would allow firms to resume work in an “orderly” manner after the restriction of non-essential businesses in an effort to contain Covid-19 outbreak.

Shenzhen, close to Hong Kong, reported 71 new local confirmed transmissions on Wednesday, up from 55 the previous day. While the outbreak is small by international standards, authorities are leaving nothing to chance.

“On condition that the epidemic prevention and control work is done well, enterprises will resume production in an orderly way based on region and category,” Huang Qiang, deputy-secretary general of the Shenzhen municipal government, told a news briefing, without providing details or a specific timeline.

“We should be aware that the new daily case numbers so far still remained relatively high,” he added. “There must be no loosening or slacking in virus control and prevention work.”

Shenzhen aims to test all of its 17.5 million residents three times by Thursday. It has suspended buses, subways and all non-essential economic activity in a week-long containment programme it described as “slow living”. Supermarkets, pharmacies and medical institutions were among the only businesses allowed to open, the government said.

Firms with employees living and working within strictly sealed-off campuses are allowed to operate, the Shenzhen government said on Monday.

Major firms in the city are already feeling the effects. Apple Inc supplier Foxconn plans to put its Shenzhen campus in a Covid-19 "bubble" that will allow it to resume production until at least Sunday, according to an internal document seen by Reuters.

United Parcel Service Inc also suspended all pickup, delivery and self-pickup services in Shenzhen and neighbouring Dongguan after strict restrictions were imposed to curb the outbreak.

China reported 1,226 new domestically transmitted COVID-19 infections with confirmed symptoms for Wednesday, data from the National Health Commission showed, down from 1,860 a day earlier. It marks the fifth day of over 1,000 such cases on the mainland.

Jilin province reported 742 local symptomatic infections on Wednesday, down from 1,456 the prior day.

The number of domestically transmitted asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, was 1,206 compared with 1,194 a day earlier.

There were no new deaths, leaving the death toll at 4,636. As of Wednesday, mainland China had reported 123,773 cases with confirmed symptoms, including both local ones and those arriving from outside the mainland.