China locks down Shanghai and Shenzhen as Omicron BA.2 subvariant increases

Outbreaks of the highly transmissible subvariant of the Omicron BA.2 coronavirus surged across China over the weekend. According to the National Health Commission, there were 1,938 new confirmed cases of infection on Saturday in 31 provinces. The vast majority of cases, 1,421, have been detected in Jilin province in the northeast of the country. Media reports say the number of cases nearly doubled to just under 3,400 on Sunday.

In response, Chinese authorities have taken emergency measures to contain the spread of the virus, including mass testing, contact tracing and lockdowns. Residents of Jilin city have undergone six rounds of tests, according to local officials. The nearby city of Changchun, which has a population of 9 million and China’s biggest automaker, has been quarantined. The mayors of Jilin City and Changchun have been fired following the spread of the virus, the biggest outbreak in China since February 2020.

Lockdowns, including the closure of schools, workplaces and non-essential businesses, have also been put in place in Shanghai, home to 25 million people and one of the world’s largest ports, where 64 cases were detected within a day. In Shenzhen, located on the border between China and Hong Kong, its 18 million inhabitants have been confined after the detection of 60 infections.

The lockdowns, part of China’s “Zero COVID” public health policy, have been denounced by Western media as “draconian” (The Associated Press). Other points of sale were more reserved, such as the Guardian, calling the effort “difficult”. All acknowledge only in passing that by pursuing such a scientifically guided policy to fight the pandemic, China has suffered only 4,636 coronavirus deaths since December 2019, and only four deaths since April 2020.

Visitors line up outside an office building that was closed after a case of the coronavirus was detected on Sunday, March 13, 2022 in Beijing. The number of new coronavirus cases in an outbreak in northeast China tripled on Sunday and authorities responded with protective measures. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Western media also fail to note that previous lockdowns have proven effective. Outbreaks of Omicron earlier this year in Tianjin, population 14 million, and Xi’an, population 13 million, were successfully contained thanks to such strict measures. It is not necessary to have a political agreement with the Stalinist government in Beijing to recognize these facts.

However, in China, both the public and public officials fear that even the immense public health measures that currently exist will falter in the face of the virulence of the BA.2 subvariant. At a press conference on Sunday, Lin Hancheng, a public health official in Shenzhen, warned: “If prevention and control are not strengthened in time and decisively, it is easy to cause transmission to large scale in the community and a rapid increase in cases. .”

Hancheng then called on the city’s people to “do a good job of personal protection, such as wearing masks, washing hands frequently, ventilating more, disinfecting frequently and maintaining social distancing, actively cooperating with the testing of nucleic acid, do everything possible to block the risk of epidemic transmission”.

The danger of lifting the Zero COVID policy in China has been demonstrated in Hong Kong. At the start of the year, there were only 13,000 total confirmed cases in the special administration region. The restrictions were lifted just as Omicron and BA.2 hit the city, sending the total number of cases skyrocketing to more than 706,000 in less than three months. The total number of deaths rose from 213 to 3,993, with the city achieving the highest daily death rate per capita in the world.

If such an approach were taken across China, millions of people would be infected within weeks and tens of thousands would be dead.

The Omicron BA.2 sub-variant has also started rolling across Europe. Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland and the United Kingdom all saw a large increase in their daily number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, just weeks after experiencing an increase in the Omicron BA.1 Subvariant. There are currently more than 63,000 new daily cases in France, almost 68,000 new daily cases in the Netherlands and at least 186,000 new daily cases in Germany.

Hospitalizations in Europe are also on the rise, indicating that serious BA.2 illness has already begun to take hold among those infected and it is only a matter of time before another wave of deaths occurs. start. Daily deaths in Europe currently stand at around 1,500 deaths per day.

In countries where the BA.2 wave has apparently peaked, such as Denmark, test positivity rates and deaths continue to rise, indicating that their surveillance system is inadequate to know the true spread of the virus.

The stark difference in the evolution of the pandemic in China and Europe is a consequence of the complete abandonment to the pandemic by European capitalist governments. All restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of the disease ended in Britain on March 2. The German government is expected to end all mask mandates by March 20. In France, a negative test just two days after exposure to COVID-19 is enough to get out of isolation. . In Spain, the Socialist Party-Podemos government has effectively declared the end of the pandemic, despite hundreds of deaths each week.

These policies are directly responsible for the 1.7 million official COVID-19 deaths in Europe since the start of the pandemic. A recent study on excess mortality published in the Lancet show that the true number of deaths caused by the pandemic in Europe is probably closer to 3.2 million. It remains unclear how many millions or tens of millions of patients across the continent have had or continue to suffer from symptoms of Long COVID, including potentially permanent heart, lung and brain damage.

The rapid spread of BA.2 in Europe is also a warning to workers and young people in the United States, where there have been more than 81 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and almost one million official deaths. While the first wave of Omicron in December, January and February has largely died down, the data indicates that the descent has leveled off and BA.2 cases are now on the rise.

Despite knowing that the next surge of the pandemic is just around the corner, the Biden administration has abandoned all public health measures. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now only recommends masking when hospitalizations, not cases, increase, allowing the pandemic to spread for weeks before any action is taken. Critical data such as centralized death reports have been removed.

Nearly 200,000 people in the United States have died from COVID-19 since mid-November and the start of the first Omicron wave. The policies of Biden and his advisers are preparing the American working class for an even greater death tide.

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