Total daily Covid cases in mainland China surpass Shanghai lockdown highs

Only a few vehicles, including one with two health workers, pass through Beijing’s central business district on November 23, 2022, as the region announced stricter Covid controls.

Kevin Frayer | Getty Images News | Getty Images

BEIJING — Mainland China reported more than 31,000 Covid infections on Wednesday, including cases without symptoms.

That surpassed the high of 29,317 seen in mid-April during Shanghai’s lockdown, according to CNBC calculations of Wind Information data.

However, daily Covid infections with symptoms remain well below the peak seen in April. Nearly 90% or more of the total Covid cases reported in recent days have been asymptomatic, the data shows.

The southern city of Guangzhou, the national capital Beijing and the southwest municipality of Chongqing have been the hardest hit in the latest covid wave.

But nearly all of China’s 31 provincial-level regions reported new Covid infections every day, with and without symptoms.

Since the weekend, six Covid-related deaths have been reported as of Wednesday, mainly in Beijing.

China’s tight Covid controls weighed on sentiment and business activity. National GDP barely grew in the second quarter due to Shanghai shutdowns. By the end of the third quarter, growth for the year was up just 3% from a year ago, well below the official target of around 5.5% announced in March.

Factories near Covid outbreaks have tried to maintain operations using what’s called closed-loop management, which typically requires staff to live on-site.

Company representatives have noted difficulties in bringing workers from closed quarters to factories, while staff living too long at production sites often become fatigued.

During the last wave of Covid, Apple Supplier Foxconn’s iPhone factory in the city of Zhengzhou drew attention to videos of new worker unrest shared on social media. It was unclear how many of the plant’s approximately 200,000 employees were involved, or if there was an impact on production.

Foxconn said on Wednesday that some new hires have appealed to the company over work severance, while saying that contrary to speculation, new hires will only move into disinfected dorms.

Separately, Zhengzhou said people living in the central part of the city should not leave their homes for five days starting Friday while authorities conduct mass virus testing.

Why China shows no signs of backing down from its strategy

China shortened quarantine times this month and announced other measures to try to make Covid checks more targeted. But authorities have been emphasizing their zero Covid policy amid questions about whether the public health system could handle a rise in infections.

Targeted Covid measures

The latest Covid checks on in-person business and apartment building closures are scattered across parts of China, a country of 1.4 billion people. Fewer measures are publicly announced, while restrictions are increasingly targeted and can range from days to weeks or longer.

For example, Shanghai Disneyland said it plans to resume operations on Friday, after suspending operations due to Covid on October 31.

Meanwhile, despite tighter restrictions in Beijing’s business district, Universal Beijing Resort on the outskirts of the city remains open, following a five-day closure that ended on October 31.

– CNBC’s Jihye Lee contributed to this report.

Disclosure: Comcast is the owner of NBCUniversal, parent company of CNBC.

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