Omicron 'stealth' variant is spreading in China and people are fed up with the zero-COVID strategy

China’s COVID case numbers are still a fraction of what they are here in the US but thanks the the new omicron “stealth” variant they are higher than they’ve been since early 2020.


Mainland China has reported well over 1,000 new confirmed Covid cases a day since March 12, with the number holding above 2,000 for the last three days. That’s not including the asymptomatic case count, which can be just as many, or far more, than the number of daily confirmed cases.

From the northern province of Jilin — which accounts for more than half of the new daily cases — to industrial centers like Tangshan and Shenzhen, local authorities have blamed omicron BA.2 for the latest wave of Covid.

“Omicron BA.2 caused this outbreak, and spreads faster and more easily than previous viruses,” the export-heavy province of Fujian said in an online statement Tuesday, according to a CNBC translation of the Chinese text.

The new BA.2 omicron variant is even more transmissible than regular omicron which means sticking to China’s zero-COVID plan is more difficult. Despite that, the Chinese CDC is still saying it’s the best option:

China continues striving to “achieve dynamic zero-COVID in the short term, as it is still the most economical and most effective prevention strategy against COVID-19,” said Wu Zunyou, an infectious disease expert at China’s Center for Disease Control.

“Only by doing dynamic zero-COVID can we eliminate the hidden dangers of the epidemic, avoid the run on medical resources that may be caused by large-scale infections and prevent a large number of possible deaths of the elderly or those with underlying diseases,” Wu added.


But zero-COVID in China comes at a cost. It means constant testing and lockdown of apartment buildings and entire neighborhoods when a case is detected.

Collectively, there are more than 25 million people under such lockdowns at the moment. And there’s some evidence people in China are sick of it.

On China’s popular — and heavily censored — social media platform Weibo, a question about why China can’t relax its Covid-19 restrictions like other countries was the top trending hashtag on Wednesday, racking up over 500 million views…

Shanghai is facing its most serious outbreak yet, with 1,609 Covid-19 cases reported Thursday. And while authorities have denied they plan to lock down the cityof 25 million people,numerous residents tell CNN that a growing number of neighborhoods are being temporarily sealed off to undergo mass testing — as part of a “rolling lockdown” strategy — with local officials vowing Wednesday to “further strengthen the prevention and control measures.”

“How can I buy groceries? … I can’t get medicine for my kids …how can we order this online when we can’t even get a hospital appointment?” wrote one social media user, who said their Shanghai neighborhood had been closed for 15 days.

Another complained that she was without staples after listening to the government’s assurances that supplies were sufficient and there was no need to hoard.
“They said there was enough food … but they didn’t mention there weren’t enough people to deliver it,” she said…

one social media user, who expressed concern that a lockdown in his Shanghai complex could be continually extended, wrote on Weibo this week: “Have the people in charge really not studied this issue carefully? The price paid by people inside is endless.”


In Shenzhen, there was a lockdown put in place for a week on March 14th. The lockdown ended Monday but while it was ongoing there were some angry protests in the streets:

The caption reads: “The people of Shenzhen have begun to resist the reset and isolation!”

A follow-up tweet reads, “The CCP’s extreme epidemic prevention has aroused public anger. On March 21, mass protests broke out in Nanshan District, Shenzhen. Protesters shouted loudly, smashed anti-epidemic checkpoints, and overturned the iron horses that prevented residents from going out.” I found a few more videos of people who are clearly fed up.

People are obviously tired of this and it’s not clear the government has a plan other than zero-COVID.


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David Strom 5:20 PM | April 19, 2024