China's Covid-19 cases hit one-month high as holiday spots flare


Residents queueing to undergo Covid-19 tests at a swab collection site in Guangzhou, China, on July 31, 2022. - AFP

BEIJING (Bloomberg): China's Covid-19 tally climbed to the highest in about a month, driven by people travelling during the week-long National Day holiday and sparking a fresh round of lockdowns aimed at controlling the outbreaks ahead of the Party Congress.

The country reported 1,138 new local infections for Wednesday, the highest since Sept 9, with 457 cases in Inner Mongolia where several cities and counties are under lockdown.

Shanghai detected 11 cases for Wednesday, also the highest in a month, with most infections found in returning travellers.

Parts of the southern province of Hainan, which just recently got an outbreak that started in August under control, were locked down again.

The capital, Haikou, ordered all residents to stay at home and suspended public transport between the hours of 7am to 10pm on Thursday after finding four cases in the past two days.

The popular tourist spot of Sanya city, which ended its last lockdown just two weeks ago, is doing mass testing and has sealed off some attractions after detecting two asymptomatic infections on Monday.

Elsewhere, CCTV reported residents of Guanghan in Sichuan province were ordered to stay at home starting Thursday morning.

While the city is small, it's close to the megacity of Chengdu, which only recently exited a two-week lockdown.

The flareups are challenging authorities' efforts to curb Covid-19's spread before the Party Congress in mid-October, when President Xi Jinping is expected to secure a precedent-breaking third term in power.

Zero-Covid-19 has been a cornerstone of Xi's leadership, and measures such as snap lockdowns and centralised quarantine are viewed as necessary to avoid the death tolls seen in other parts of the world, even as social and economic costs are mounting.

Xinjiang reported 97 infections, the country's second-highest tally. All trains and long-distance coaches are suspended, and many flights have been cancelled, leaving the Alaska-sized region essentially sealed off.

People wanting to leave Xinjiang need to apply for permission and sign a letter saying they'll accept punishment if they're found to have breached Covid-19 prevention rules.

Xinjiang has been struggling to contain an outbreak since August, with residents going hungry and unable to access medical care during extended lockdowns in several cities including Yili and the capital, Urumqi.

The region's Vice-Chairman Liu Sushe this week apologised to other provinces that have had cases spread from the area.

The outbreak "is a public health emergency with the fastest transmissions, the widest scope, with the most people infected and the most challenging in Xinjiang's history," Mr Liu said in a briefing on Tuesday.

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