China’s Covid death toll rises, Beijing warns of ‘grim’ situation

(ORDO NEWS) — Shanghai reported 39 Covid-related deaths, the highest in a day despite weeks of lockdown, and China‘s capital Beijing warned of a “gloomy” situation as infections rise.

The world’s second-largest economy is struggling to contain the worst outbreak in two years, with drastic lockdowns and mass testing, and a strict no-Covid policy that has hit business and morale hard.

Cosmopolitan business hub Shanghai has been almost completely shut down since the start of the month, disrupting supply chains, with many residents staying at home even longer as the city became the epicenter of the outbreak.

China’s largest city only announced the first deaths from the outbreak on April 18, despite thousands of daily cases being reported in recent weeks.

On Sunday, it reported 39 more deaths, bringing the total to 87, according to the National Health Commission, while the country recorded about 22,000 new cases of the indigenous virus.

Shanghai’s previous record daily reading since the lockdown was 12 was reported a day earlier.

The city of 25 million is struggling to provide fresh food to those at home, and patients are reporting problems accessing regular healthcare as thousands of healthcare workers have been sent to test and treat Covid.

Health officials have warned of a particular danger of Covid to the country’s elderly and largely unvaccinated population, saying the median age of those who died during the outbreak in Shanghai was 81.

Five of those who died were vaccinated, although authorities said the deaths were in people with severe underlying illnesses who were in critical condition.

Doubts have been raised about the effectiveness of China’s own-produced vaccines, and Beijing has not imported any foreign vaccines.

Censors have fought to contain the online backlash against Shanghai’s long lockdown, including quickly censoring a viral video of residents talking about their daily struggles with food and access to basic services.

On Saturday evening, a fire at an apartment building drew fear and criticism on social media, given that many exits in apartment complexes are routinely sealed as part of Covid controls.

Meanwhile, 22 more infections have been reported in Beijing, after an official warned on Saturday that the city must take urgent action.

Health spokesman Pang Xinghuo said early observations showed that Covid had been “spreading unnoticed” in the capital for a week, hitting “schools, tour groups and many families”.

“The risk of continued and covert transmission of the virus is high, and the situation is grim,” Tian Wei, a spokesman for the Beijing City Party Committee, said at a press briefing.

“All of Beijing must act immediately.”

Targeted closures have already been introduced in some communities where Covid cases have been detected, and some fitness studios in the capital have said they are suspending classes indefinitely.

Beijing has also imposed strict entry controls into the city, with travelers required to test negative for Covid within 48 hours.

People who have traveled to cities or counties where only one case of Covid has been reported in the past two weeks are denied entry.

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