China yesterday reported 13,146 COVID-19 cases, the most since the peak of the first wave more than two years ago, as health officials said they have found a suspected new subtype of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 in the Shanghai area.
China’s “zero COVID” strategy is under extreme pressure as the virus whips across the country. Until last month, China had successfully kept its daily caseload down to double or triple digits, with hard, localized lockdowns, mass testing and travel restrictions.
However, cases have in the past few weeks surged to thousands each day, especially in the outbreak epicenter of Shanghai, where streets were eerily empty yesterday as 25 million people stayed indoors under lockdown orders.
Officials in Suzhou, a city 30 minutes west of Shanghai, have detected a mutation of the Omicron variant not found in local or international databases, state media reported.
“This means a new variant of Omicron has been discovered locally,” Xinhua news agency said, citing Suzhou Center for Disease Control and Prevention Deputy Director Zhang Jun (張鈞).
The outbreak is also testing the patience of Chinese toward tough restrictions, at a time when much of the world has reopened.
The 1.5 million residents of Baicheng in northeast China yesterday joined the ranks of tens of millions of other Chinese who have endured some form of lockdown over the last month, disrupting work and damaging the economy.
China recorded 13,146 cases yesterday, the Chinese National Health Commission said in a statement, with “no new deaths” reported.
It is the country’s highest daily infection tally since the middle of February 2020.
Nearly 70 percent of China’s caseload was in Shanghai, after mass testing, the commission said.
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