China Faces Surge of COVID Cases For The First Time Since Early 2020

Photo courtesy of Mufid Majnun on

Vivian Ye, Staff Writer

In late February, China began to see an increase in COVID cases, rising from under 100 cases per day to 224 by March 1. Since then, China has faced a continual increase in cases, forcing the shutdowns of neighborhoods and entire cities. By mid-March, case totals per day had reached above 3,000.

The current surge caused by the highly transmissible Omicron strain is only China’s second surge of COVID. Though China was the first country to be affected by COVID in late 2019, it was able to suppress the initial wave by March 2020. China was able to implement rapid control because of its “Zero-COVID” strategy, which entails mass testing and lockdowns with the goal of bringing cases to zero. Other countries have opted for the “living with COVID” strategy by prioritizing the return to pre-pandemic life rather than restrictive public health interventions.

China has implemented strict lockdowns in major cities throughout China. Shenyang, an industrial city of 9 million people, was locked down on March 24. Three mandatory rounds of testing are required for all inhabitants. Shortly after, the entire Jilin province was placed under lockdown. In Shanghai, all schools have transitioned back online and lockdowns in individual neighborhoods prevent people from leaving.

The surge has devastated hospitals, with many needing to reject new patients due to overflow. Throughout China, over 30 makeshift hospitals have been built. In Shanghai, two stadiums are being used as mass quarantine facilities.

In addition to lockdown measures, the Pfizer antiviral pill has recently been approved for use in China. In the past two years, China has rejected the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines. While China has tried to develop its own mRNA vaccine, attempts have been unsuccessful thus far. However, the new surge has prompted China to approve Paxlovid, a treatment for COVID-19 developed by Pfizer. The approval marks the first time China has authorized a vaccine or drug for COVID that wasn’t developed in China.