It’s been well over two years since the first cases of Coronavirus were reported in Wuhan, China. Since December 2019, the country’s approach to tackling the spread of the virus has been one of the strictest and most severe seen anywhere in the world. National and city-wide lockdowns, covid camps and arrests have been some of the strategies used by President Xi Jinping and his communist party, strategies which despite massively suppressing the virus, have not been capable to completely eradicating it.
Despite the acuteness of such measures, China has once again seen a serious outbreak, as evidenced by Shanghai’s recent spike. The city of Shanghai, the biggest in China with approximately 25 million people, has reported around 2,600 new cases in the past 24 hours. That’s an 18% increase in cases on the previous day according to data from the Municipal Health Commission. In other words, Shanghai has become the epicentre of China’s corona case. Although comparatively speaking these infection rates are low compared to Europe and the US, these are worrying stats for the authorities, especially given the virus’ tendency to spread at an alarming rate through densely packed populations like that of China’s second city. Given the slightly impulsive and stern stance taken by the government in moments akin to these in the past couple of years, it’s not a surprise that lockdowns have been announced across the city. Millions of people will once again be forced to stay inside. The city is due to be divided in two between east and west, and each side will go into weeks lockdown one after the other. Public transportation will be suspended and businesses and factories will have to stop operations or work remotely.
This outbreak is a major political concern for the CCP, and threatens to derail their “zero-case” covid strategy. As infection rates continue to rise, this policy is becoming increasingly difficult to justify and sustain. In Shanghai’s case, the city is China’s commercial capital and, in this regard, extended periods of a city-wide quarantine would come at an extreme economic cost.
Ultimately, the China’s most recent response has been accused of being overly dramatic and unstainable, especially given the greater infection rate and lighter nature of the omicron variant. Shanghai’s residents have cautiously complained about the endless covid restrictions, and unsurprisingly there seems to be an overwhelming feeling that the country cannot go on like this. Covid seems to be inevitable, and not even China’s authoritarian approach can stop it. It remains to be seen if restrictions will be eased.