World: China expands lockdowns as COVID-19 cases hit daily record

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BEIJING (AP) — China is expanding lockdowns, including in a cental city where factory workers clashed this week with police, as its number of COVID-19 cases hit a daily record.

A security guard in protective suit keeps watch at an entrance gate to a neighborhood in Beijing, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022. The ruling Communist Party promised earlier this month to reduce disruptions from its © Provided by The Associated Press A security guard in protective suit keeps watch at an entrance gate to a neighborhood in Beijing, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022. The ruling Communist Party promised earlier this month to reduce disruptions from its "zero- COVID" strategy by making controls more flexible. But the latest wave of outbreaks is challenging that, prompting major cities including Beijing to close off populous districts, shut stores and offices and ordered factories to isolate their workforces from outside contact. (AP Photo/Andy Wong) A woman wearing a face mask stands near a mural depicting a dragon in Beijing, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022. The ruling Communist Party promised earlier this month to reduce disruptions from its © Provided by The Associated Press APTOPIX Virus Outbreak China

People in eight districts of Zhengzhou with a total of 6.6 million residents were told to stay home for five days beginning Thursday, except to buy food or get medical treatment. Daily mass testing was ordered in what the city government called a “war of annihilation” against the virus.

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During clashes Tuesday and Wednesday, Zhengzhou police beat workers protesting over a pay dispute at the biggest factory for Apple’s iPhone.

Across China, the number of new cases reported in the past 24 hours was 31,444, the National Health Commission said Thursday. That is the highest daily figure since the coronavirus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.

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The daily average of reported cases is steadily increasing. This week, authorities reported China’s first COVID-19 deaths in six months, bringing the total to 5,232.

While the numbers of cases and deaths are relatively low compared to the U.S. and other countries, China's ruling Communist Party remains committed to its “zero-COVID” strategy that aims to isolate every case and eliminate the virus entirely while other governments end anti-virus controls and rely on vaccinations and immunity from past infections to prevent deaths and serious illness.

A resident wearing a mask past a security guard outside a residential compound in Beijing, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022. The ruling Communist Party promised this month to try to reduce disruptions by shortening quarantines and making other changes. But the party is sticking to a © Provided by The Associated Press A resident wearing a mask past a security guard outside a residential compound in Beijing, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022. The ruling Communist Party promised this month to try to reduce disruptions by shortening quarantines and making other changes. But the party is sticking to a "zero-COVID" strategy that aims to isolate every case while other governments relax controls and try to live with the virus. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Businesses and residential communities from the manufacturing center of Guangzhou in the south to Beijing in the north have also been placed under various forms of lockdown, measures that particularly affects blue-collar migrant workers. In many cases, residents say the restrictions go beyond what the national government allows.

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Guangzhou suspended access Monday to its Baiyun district of 3.7 million residents, while residents of some areas of Shijiazhuang, a city of 11 million people southwest of Beijing, were told to stay home while mass testing is conducted.

Beijing this week opened a hospital in an exhibition center and suspended access to Beijing International Studies University after a virus case was found there. The capital earlier closed shopping malls and office buildings and suspended access to some apartment compounds.

In this photo provided Nov 23, 2022, security personnel in protective clothing were seen taking away a person during protest at the factory compound operated by Foxconn Technology Group who runs the world's biggest Apple iPhone factory in Zhengzhou in central China's Henan province. Employees at the world's biggest Apple iPhone factory were beaten and detained in protests over pay amid anti-virus controls, according to witnesses and videos on social media Wednesday, as tensions mount over Chinese efforts to combat a renewed rise in infections. (AP) © Provided by The Associated Press In this photo provided Nov 23, 2022, security personnel in protective clothing were seen taking away a person during protest at the factory compound operated by Foxconn Technology Group who runs the world's biggest Apple iPhone factory in Zhengzhou in central China's Henan province. Employees at the world's biggest Apple iPhone factory were beaten and detained in protests over pay amid anti-virus controls, according to witnesses and videos on social media Wednesday, as tensions mount over Chinese efforts to combat a renewed rise in infections. (AP)

The tightening came after the Communist party this month announced measures to try to reduce disruptions by shortening quarantines and making other changes.

Far from "zero-COVID," cases in China are setting new records

  Far from As other nations seem to be living with the virus, China is doubling down on its draconian policy, and that's fueling a rare backlash in the tightly controlled nation.32,695 new infections were recorded on Thursday, the highest figure since the virus was first detected in central China's Wuhan province at the end of 2019. The surging caseload has prompted new and spreading residential lockdowns, and business shutdowns in multiple major cities.

The party is trying to contain the latest wave of outbreaks without shutting down factories and the rest of its economy as it did in early 2020. Its tactics include “closed-loop management,” under which workers live in their factories with no outside contact.

Economic growth rebounded to 3.9% over a year earlier in the three months ending in September, up from the first half’s 2.2%. But activity already was starting to fall back, and growth for the year is on track to fall well short of the government's target of 5.5%.

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

In this photo provided Nov 23, 2022, security personnel in protective clothing attack a protester with clubs after he grabbed a metal pole that had been used to strike him during protest at the factory compound operated by Foxconn Technology Group who runs the world's biggest Apple iPhone factory in Zhengzhou in central China's Henan province. Employees at the world's biggest Apple iPhone factory were beaten and detained in protests over pay amid anti-virus controls, according to witnesses and videos on social media Wednesday, as tensions mount over Chinese efforts to combat a renewed rise in infections. (AP) © Provided by The Associated Press In this photo provided Nov 23, 2022, security personnel in protective clothing attack a protester with clubs after he grabbed a metal pole that had been used to strike him during protest at the factory compound operated by Foxconn Technology Group who runs the world's biggest Apple iPhone factory in Zhengzhou in central China's Henan province. Employees at the world's biggest Apple iPhone factory were beaten and detained in protests over pay amid anti-virus controls, according to witnesses and videos on social media Wednesday, as tensions mount over Chinese efforts to combat a renewed rise in infections. (AP)

Foxconn, based in Taiwan, said its contractual obligation about payments “has always been fulfilled.”

China's 'zero-COVID' limits saved lives but no clear exit

  China's 'zero-COVID' limits saved lives but no clear exit China's strategy of controlling the coronavirus with lockdowns, mass testing and quarantines has provoked the greatest show of public dissent against the ruling Communist Party in decades. Most protesters on the mainland and in Hong Kong have focused their anger on restrictions that confine families to their homes for months. Global health experts have criticized China's methods as unsustainable. A look at China's “zero-COVID” approach: CHINA'SMost protesters on the mainland and in Hong Kong have focused their anger on restrictions that confine families to their homes for months. Global health experts have criticized China's methods as unsustainable.

The company denied what it said were comments online that employees with the virus lived in dormitories at the Zhengzhou factory. It said facilities were disinfected and passed government checks before employees moved in.

China's Xi Jinping Has No Easy Way Out .
China's zero-COVID policy may unwind, but it might not happen at the government's pace.In mid-October, China's pandemic performance helped justify Xi's norm-breaking third term as leader of the long-ruling Communist Party. The pageantry took place as an estimated 200 million of China's 1.4 billion people were in lockdown. As of late November, more than double that number were still living under restrictions, according to economists at Nomura.

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