China’s Tightening COVID Curbs Fuel Pushback

A delivery worker picks up goods at a logistics station of the online grocery platform by Meituan, following the coronavirus outbreak in Beijing, Thursday. (REUTERS/Tingshu Wang)

BEIJING (Reuters) – Frustration simmered in China among residents and business groups navigating stricter COVID-19 control curbs as the country reported on Friday another historic high of daily infections just weeks after hopes were raised of easing measures.

The resurgence of COVID cases in China, with 32,695 new local infections recorded for Thursday as numerous cities report outbreaks, has prompted widespread lockdowns and other curbs on movement and business, as well as pushback.

The French Chamber of Commerce in China called for authorities to properly implement COVID “optimization” measures it announced two weeks ago, in a statement widely shared on social media.

The 20 measures, which include shortened quarantines and other more targeted steps, had “given hope” to French companies for more bilateral trade and economic exchanges, but “good policies also need to be implemented in a uniform manner and without adding layers of other contradicting policies,” the chamber’s statement said.

The announcement of the 20 measures, just as rising cases prompted an increasingly heavy response under China’s strict zero-COVID approach, has caused widespread confusion and uncertainty in big cities, including Beijing, where many residents are locked down at home.

At the world’s largest iPhone factory in Zhengzhou, more than 20,000 new hires have left after COVID-induced worker unrest this week, further imperiling output at Apple supplier Foxconn’s plant there, Reuters reported on Friday.

References to a speech by a man in the southwestern city Chongqing who called for the government to admit its mistakes on COVID were shared widely on Chinese social media, despite the work of censors.

“Give me liberty or death,” the bespectacled man told onlooking residents at the gate of a compound in an impassioned speech on Thursday, according to videos seen by Reuters.

“There is only one disease in the world and that is being both poor and not having freedom,” he added. “We have now got both. We’re still struggling and suffering over a little cold.”

The man was later seen being bundled towards a police car by security personnel, prompting angry shouts from onlookers.

The southern city of Guangzhou and southwestern Chongqing have recorded the bulk of cases, although hundreds of new infections have been reporting daily in cities such as Beijing, Chengdu, Jinan, Lanzhou, Xian and Wuhan.

Guangzhou, a city in the south of nearly 19 million people, reported 7,524 new locally transmitted cases, while Chongqing reported 6,500 cases.

Beijing reported 1,860 cases on Thursday, while the northern city of Shijiazhuang saw numbers quadruple.

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