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Friday, September 22, 2023

China’s soaring COVID case load raises concerns about costs of containment

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China posted a steep jump in daily COVID-19 infections on Tuesday, with new cases more than doubling from a day earlier to hit a two-year high, raising concerns about the rising economic costs of the country’s tough containment measures.

A total of 3,507 domestically transmitted cases with confirmed symptoms were reported on Monday across more than a dozen provinces and municipalities, up from 1,337 a day earlier, the National Health Commission said. Most of the new cases were in the northeastern province of Jilin.

Though China’s case load is still tiny by global standards, health experts said the rate of increase in daily infections over the next few weeks will be a crucial factor in determining whether its tough “dynamic clearance” approach – aiming to contain each outbreak as soon as it arises – is still effective against the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.

A COVID-19 forecasting system run by Lanzhou University in China’s northwest predicted that the current round of infections would eventually be brought under control in early April after an accumulated total of around 35,000 cases.

The university said in its latest assessment published on Monday that while the latest outbreak was the most serious on the mainland since Wuhan in 2020, China could bring it under control as long as stringent curbs remained in place.

China’s zero tolerance approach is not only becoming more costly, but also suffering diminishing returns against the highly infectious Omicron, said Yanzhong Huang, senior health policy analyst at Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a U.S. think tank.

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