Two Chinese died on Saturday of Covid-19 in Jilin (northeast). These are the first deaths since January 26, 2021 in mainland China.
Mainland China on Saturday recorded its first two deaths from Covid-19 in more than a year, underscoring the threat posed to the country by the Omicron variant, already responsible for the largest wave of contaminations since the start of the pandemic.
These first deaths since January 26, 2021 in mainland China – excluding Hong Kong and Macao – bring the toll of the pandemic there to 4,638 dead, while Hong Kong, also in the grip of a resurgence of Covid-19, deplores more than 200 dead. per day.
The two deaths occurred in Jilin (northeast), the province most affected by the current wave, said the National Health Commission.
Authorities recorded 4,051 new infections across the country on Saturday and 4,365 the day before, more than half of them in Jilin province.
The country, where the first cases of coronavirus appeared at the end of 2019, had kept the epidemic under control thanks to strict border control, long quarantines, massive screening campaigns and targeted confinements.
Beijing has made a political argument out of its low death rate, saying it demonstrates the power of its one-party governance model.
Both deaths are quietly reported in the Health Commission’s daily report and little mention is made of them by the public media.
The world’s second largest economy, which recorded less than 100 cases a day just three weeks ago, has announced more than a thousand new daily infections for the past week.
Questions have emerged with the highly contagious Omicron variant about the long-term effectiveness of the government’s so-called “zero-Covid” strategy.
In recent weeks, official sources have suggested that China may at some point have to live with Covid-19, as other countries do, and have worried about the impact of broad lockdowns on the economy.
But President Xi Jinping assured Thursday that the government is “sticking” to the “zero-Covid” strategy, according to state television, while allowing a more “targeted” approach.
While, in the past, any epidemic rebound could lead to complete confinements of cities, the authorities have decided on differentiated measures to respond to the last outbreaks.
Cities, such as Shenzhen, a technological center of 17.5 million inhabitants, have been confined. But the restrictions were relaxed in this city after Mr. Xi’s remarks.
For its part, Shanghai closed schools and carried out a massive screening campaign but escaped total confinement.
The authorities have also announced that patients with mild symptoms can be isolated in quarantine centers and no longer necessarily in specialized hospitals.
Tens of millions of people are currently confined to their homes across the country and authorities have scrambled to free up hospital beds amid fears the outbreak could put the healthcare system under severe strain.
Jilin Province, which reported thousands of cases last week, has built eight temporary hospitals and two quarantine centers to handle the outbreak.
State media released footage showing dozens of cranes assembling temporary medical facilities in Jilin, which has just 23,000 hospital beds for 24 million residents.
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