China is suffering its most widespread Covid-19 outbreak since the virus first emerged at the beginning of the pandemic in Wuhan in 2019.
The country’s new locally transmitted Covid cases have spiked to a near three-month high amid what the Chinese government called a ‘serious’ new outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant.
Now, more than 600 locally-transmitted cases have been found in 19 of the country’s 31 provinces, reports Bloomberg.
The National Health Commission confirmed on Wednesday 93 new local symptomatic cases for Tuesday, up from 54 a day earlier and the highest daily count since August 9 at the peak of China’s last major outbreak.
Most of the local cases were found in Heihe, a city in the northern province of Heilongjiang, where 35 infections were recorded on Tuesday. Three new provinces detected cases: central Chongqing, Jiangsu and Henan, reported Bloomberg.
The spread and rise in Covid infections comes despite the Chinese government enforcing tighter curbs to contain the cases.
China is suffering its most widespread Covid-19 outbreak since the virus first emerged at the beginning of the pandemic in Wuhan in 2019
Local residents queue up for COVID-19 nucleic acid testing at a temporary Covid-19 testing site on November 3, 2021 in Chongqing, China
The country’s new locally transmitted Covid cases have spiked to a near three-month high amid what the Chinese government called a ‘serious’ new outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant
Officials have backed the government’s with officials still sticking to their Covid zero approach, with one expert insisting the current outbreak will be contained ‘within a month’.
Zhong Nanshan, a leading expert in China’s respiratory disease research, told China Global Television Network that China will continue with its zero-transmission policy against Covid, because the global Covid fatality rate of 2% is too high.
‘I think the zero-transmission policy will remain in place for a long time,’ Nanshan said. ‘Exactly how long depends on the global and regional Covid-19 control situations in coming months.’
Strict restrictions are expected in the capital Beijing in the run-up to a key gathering of the highest-ranking members of the Communist Party next week.
On Tuesday, China’s government urged citizens to stock up on daily necessities and for authorities to take steps to ensure adequate food supplies as the country adopts increasingly tight measures to contain the latest outbreak.
A notice posted on the website of the Ministry of Commerce late on Monday urged ‘families to store a certain amount of daily necessities as needed to meet daily life and emergencies’.
The directive made no mention of a food shortage or of whether the instructions were motivated by fears that Covid measures could disrupt supply chains or leave locked-down citizens in need of food.
But China, which has kept its infection numbers relatively low through a Covid-zero strategy of border closures, targeted lockdowns and long quarantine periods, is increasingly adopting tough measures to contain the latest outbreak, especially ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics beginning on February 4.
Workers arrange food supplies at the Tiantongyuan residential complex where residents are under lockdown to halt the spread of the Covid-19 on Wednesday in Beijing
On Tuesday, Beijing reported four cases of Covid-19 among one family – a couple, their daughter, and the daughter’s grandmother.
The cases triggered an instant response, with a major primary school and a secondary schools conducting Covid tests for all teachers and students. Another 16 schools suspending in-person classes on Tuesday.
By Tuesday morning, 596 people from the primary school and 1,329 people from the middle school had tested negative. The remaining people were waiting for results.
The Commerce Ministry notice also told authorities to take measures to facilitate agricultural production, keep supply chains smooth, ensure that regional food reserves were adequate and maintain stable prices.
Besides Covid concerns, China has been hit hard over the past two years by heavy summer flooding that impacted agricultural output and drove up prices, raising concerns that the problem could worsen as climate change brings increasingly extreme weather.
The government last year launched a national campaign to curb food waste.
Average wholesale prices of 28 kinds of vegetables in October were up 16 percent from the previous month, state media reported on Monday, citing government numbers.
The government has restricted some inter-provincial travel, ramped up testing, and urged people to postpone social gatherings like weddings and banquets.
In an example of the extreme measures taken, the Shanghai Disneyland theme park closed temporarily from Sunday night and prevented visitors and park personnel from leaving until they underwent Covid testing, all due to a single coronavirus case.
More than 38,000 people were tested as a result.
China tells families to stockpile food triggering panic buying in supermarkets after floods and Covid lockdowns sparked fears of shortages
By Chris Jewers for MailOnline
China has told families to stockpile food and other daily necessities after floods and coronavirus lockdowns sparked fears over shortages of essential goods.
Beijing’s commerce ministry directive on Monday stirred some concern on domestic social media that it may have been triggered by heightened tensions with Taiwan, while some said people were rushing to stock up on rice, cooking oil and salt.
‘As soon as this news came out, all the old people near me went crazy panic buying in the supermarket,’ wrote one user on China’s Twitter-like Weibo.
The government typically makes extra efforts to boost fresh vegetable and pork supplies before China’s most important holiday, Lunar New Year, which in 2022 falls in early February.
But this year those efforts have become more urgent, as the shoring up of supplies becomes more challenging.
China has told families to stockpile food and other daily necessities after floods and coronavirus lockdowns sparked fears of shortages of essential goods. Pictured: A woman buys vegetables at a market in Nanning, in China’s southern Guangxi region, November 1
The directive is said to have sparked panic buying in some supermarkets. Pictured: shoppers stock up on cabbage at a shop in Beijing
Floods linked to global warming have killed hundreds of people and destroyed homes, while the prices of vegetables have increased.
In early October, extreme weather including a tornado destroyed crops in Shandong – the country’s biggest vegetable growing region. Henan province, known as China’s bread basket, was also hit with torrential rain over the summer.
Meanwhile, as outbreaks of COVID-19 cases are stretching from the northwest to the northeast of the country, authorities have imposed tough new Covid lockdowns in response, leading to potential delays in deliveries.
In a sign that the government is becoming increasingly concerned over the food shortages, Chinese authorities have recently revived an anti-food waste campaign that first launched last year.
Local media has also recently published lists of recommended goods to store at home including biscuits and instant noodles, vitamins, radios and flashlights.
The public response forced state media on Tuesday to try to soothe fears and clarify the ministry’s statement.
The Economic Daily, a Communist Party-backed newspaper, told netizens not to have ‘too much of an overactive imagination’ and that the directive’s purpose was to make sure citizens were not caught off guard if there was a lockdown in their area.
The People’s Daily said the ministry issues such notices every year, but had issued its instruction earlier this year because of natural disasters, the surge in vegetable prices and recent COVID-19 cases.
A farmer tries to drain a corn field still water logged months after torrential rain flooded the region of Zhaoguo village in central China’s Henan province on Friday, October 22, 2021. Heavy flooding and Covid lockdowns have lead to fears of shortages in the country
The ministry’s statement late on Monday urged local authorities to do a good job in ensuring supply and stable prices, and to give early warnings of any supply problems.
Last week, prices of cucumbers, spinach and broccoli had more than doubled from early October. Spinach was more expensive than some cuts of pork at 16.67 yuan ($2.60) per kg, a vegetable price index in Shouguang, a trading hub in Shandong, indicated.
Although prices have eased in recent days, economists expect a significant year-on-year increase in consumer price inflation for October, the first in five months.
The pandemic has brought an increased focus on food security, with the government drafting a food security law and outlining new efforts to curb food waste.
The commerce ministry said local authorities should buy vegetables that can be stored well in advance and also strengthen emergency delivery networks. Information about prices and supply and demand of commodities should be released in a timely manner to stabilise people’s expectations, it added.
China also plans to release vegetable reserves ‘at an appropriate time’ to counter rising prices, according to a state TV report late on Monday. It is not clear which vegetables China holds in reserves and how big those reserves are.
Some in China took to the internet to speculate over why the directive had been issued, with some suggesting Beijing was imposing emergency measures in preparation to invade Taiwan.
In a sign that the government is becoming increasingly concerned over the food shortages, Chinese authorities have recently revived an anti-food waste campaign that first launched last year. Pictured: A neighbourhood market in Beijing on November 2, 2021
The island country has its own democratic government, but Beijing insists it is part of its territory and has in recent months been ramping up pressure over the issue.
But in response to the speculation, state media warned against ‘overactive imaginations’ and told the public not to panic over the announcement, saying the government only wanted to ensure people were not caught off guard in the scenario of an emergency lockdown.
The state planning body has called for the timely replanting of vegetables, urging local governments to support fast-growing produce, according to the report.
China has about 100 million mu (6.7 million hectares) planted with vegetables, the agriculture ministry has said.
Three months after torrential rains flooded much of central China’s Henan province, stretches of the country’s flat agricultural heartland are still submerged in several inches of water.
It’s one of the many calamities around the world that are giving urgency to the U.N. climate summit underway in Glasgow, Scotland.
‘There is nothing this year. It’s all gone,’ farmer Wang Yuetang’s said. ‘Farmers on the lowland basically have no harvest, nothing.’
Local media has recently published lists of recommended goods to store at home including biscuits and instant noodles, vitamins, radios and flashlights. Pictured: Two grandmothers with their granddaughter trade vegetables at a market on the outskirts of Shanghai, June 3
He lost his summer crop to floods, and in late October the ground was still too wet to plant the next season’s crop, winter wheat.
The flooding disaster is the worst that farmers in Henan can remember in 40 years, Wang said, but it is also a preview of the kind of extreme conditions the country is likely to face as the planet warms and the weather patterns growers depend upon are increasingly destabilized.
‘As the atmosphere warms up, air can hold more moisture, so when storms occur, they can rain out more extreme precipitation,’ said Richard Seager, a climate scientist at Columbia University.
‘Chances are extremely likely that human-induced climate change caused the extreme flooding you saw this summer in places like China and Europe.’
China, the most populous country in the world, with 1.4 billion people, is now the planet’s largest contributor to climate change, responsible for around 28 percent of carbon dioxide emissions that warm the Earth, though the United States is the biggest polluter historically.
As world leaders take part this week in the climate summit, China is being criticized for not setting a more ambitious timeline for phasing out fossil fuels.
President Xi Jinping, who has not left China since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and will not be attending the summit but sent a veteran negotiator, has said the country’s carbon emissions will level off before 2030. Critics say that’s not soon enough.
Floords in china, linked to global warming, have killed hundreds of people and destroyed homes. Pictured: Rescuers repair a bridge damaged by flooding on October 7, 2021 in Jinzhong, Shanxi Province
Chinese government projections paint a worrying vision of the future: rising sea levels threatening major coastal cities, including Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong, and melting glaciers and permafrost imperiling western China’s water supply and grand infrastructure projects such as the railroads across the Tibetan plateau.
Top government scientists also predict an increase in droughts, heat waves and extreme rainfall across China that could threaten harvests and endanger reservoirs and dams, including Three Gorges Dam.
Meanwhile, China’s people are already suffering the brunt of climate change. And in a common pattern around the world, those who have contributed least to the warming and have the fewest resources to adapt often feel the pain most acutely.
In late July, Chinese news broadcasts carried startling footage of torrential rains swamping Henan’s provincial capital, Zhengzhou – at one point, 8 inches (20 centimeters) fell in a single hour – with cars swept away, subways flooded and people struggling through waist-deep water.
More than 300 people died as the megacity turned into an accidental Venice, its highways transformed into muddy canals.
Even after the most dramatic storms ceased, the water continued to pool in much of the surrounding countryside, a flat and fertile region.
Henan’s economy depends on corn, wheat and vegetables, and other regions of China depend on Henan for food.
The local government reported that nearly 3 million acres (1.2 million hectares) of farmland were flooded – an area about the size of Northern Ireland – with damage totaling $18 billion.
The great cover-up of China: Beijing punished Covid whistleblower, claimed it came from US and ‘lied about death figures’
China has lied and covered up key information during virtually every stage of its coronavirus response – from the initial outbreak to the number of cases and deaths, and is still not telling the truth, observers, experts and politicians have warned.
Beijing initially tried to cover up the virus by punishing medics who discovered it, denying it could spread person-to-person and delaying a lockdown of affected regions – meaning early opportunities to control the spread were lost.
Then, once the virus began spreading, the Communist Party began censoring public information about it and spread disinformation overseas – including suggesting that US troops could have been the initial carriers.
Even now, prominent politicians have warned that infection and death totals being reported by the regime are likely to be wrong – with locals in the epicenter of Wuhan suggesting the true tolls could be ten times higher.
Doctors in China, including Li Wenliang, began reporting the existence of a new type of respiratory infection that was similar to SARS in early December 2019.
But rather than publicise the reports and warn the public, Chinese police hauled Wenliang and eight of his colleagues who had been posting about the virus online in for questioning.
Wenliang, who would later die from the virus, was forced to sign a document admitting the information he published was false.
While China has been widely-praised for a draconian lockdown that helped slow the spread of the virus, evidence suggests that the country could have acted much quicker to prevent the spread.
Dr Li Wenliang, one of the first Chinese medics to report the existence of the new coronavirus, was forced by police to confess to spreading false data. He later died from the virus
Samples analysed as early as December 26 suggested a new type of SARS was circulating, the Washington Post reported, but Wuhan was not locked down until January 22 – almost a month later.
Wuhan’s mayor also admitted an error that allowed 5million people to travel out of the city before the lockdown came into place without being checked for the virus, potentially helping it to spread.
Chinese authorities have also been reluctant to had over information on the country’s ‘patient zero’ – or the first person known to have contracted the virus.
While Beijing claims the first infection took place on December 8, researchers have traced the virus back to at least December 1 and anecdotal evidence suggests it was spreading in November.
A lack of information about the first patient has meant scientists are still unclear how the disease made the leap from animals into humans.
Theories include that it could have been carried by a bat or pangolin that was sold at a market in Wuhan and then eaten by someone, but this has not been confirmed.
Chinese authorities initially reported that the virus could not spread person-to-person, despite evidence that it was spreading rapidly through the city of Wuhan including doctors being infected by patients.
This was used as justification for keeping the city of Wuhan operating as normal through a major CCP conference that was held between January 11 and 17, with authorities claiming zero new cases in this period.
China did not confirm human-to-human transmission of the virus until late January, when large parts of Hubei province including Wuhan were put into lockdown.
Despite reporting the existence of a ‘novel type of pneumonia’ to the World Health Organisation on December 31, Wuhan’s largest newspaper also made no mention of the virus until the week of January 20.
That meant people in the city were not taking precautions such as social distancing to stop it spreading.
It also meant that people had begun travelling for the Lunar New Year holiday, which was due to start on January 24 and sees millions of people visit relatives, spreading the virus further.
Furthermore, China delayed reports suggesting that some 14 per cent of patients who initially tested negative for the virus or who appeared to have recovered tested positive a second time, only confirming such cases in February.
That further hampered efforts at early containment of the virus in places such as Japan, where patients who tested negative on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship were allowed to leave – only to test positive later.
Authorities in Beijing were also slow to report the deaths of two doctors from the virus, including one who was killed on January 25 but whose death was not reported by state media until a month later.
The market was shut on January 1 after dozens of workers there had contracted the disease
Origin of the virus
Despite early admissions that the virus began in the city of Wuhan, China later back-tracked – even going so far as to suggest American troops had brought the infection over after visiting the province.
Lijian Zhao, a prominent official within the Chinese Foreign Ministry, tweeted out the claim on March 12 while providing no evidence to substantiate it.
‘When did patient zero begin in US? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals,’ he wrote.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian accused American military members of bringing the coronavirus to Wuhan
Referencing a military athletics tournament in Wuhan in October, which US troops attended, he wrote: ‘It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan.
‘Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation!’
In fact, America’s ‘patient zero’ was a man who travelled from China to Washington State on January 15. The case was confirmed by the CDC six days later.
Chinese has also tried to push the theory that the virus originated in Italy, the country with the most deaths, by distorting a quote from an Italian doctor who suggested the country’s first cases could have occurred much earlier than thought.
Zhao spread the theory in a tweet, while providing no evidence to back it up
Giuseppe Remuzzi said he is investigating strange cases of pneumonia as far back as December and November, months before the virus was known to have spread.
Chinese state media widely reported his comments while also suggesting that the virus could have originated in Italy.
In fact, Remuzzi says, there can be no doubt it started in Wuhan – but may have spread out of the province and across the world earlier than thought.
China has reported a total of some 95,000 infections from coronavirus, and at points has claimed a domestic infection rate of zero for several days in a row – even as it eased lockdown restrictions in placed like Hubei.
But, by the country’s own admission, the virus is likely still spreading – via people who have few or no symptoms.
Beijing-based outlet Caixin reported that ‘a couple to over 10 cases of covert infections of the virus are being detected’ in China every day, despite not showing up in official data.
Meanwhile foreign governments have heaped scorn on China’s infection reporting cannot be trusted.
Marco Rubio, a prominent Republican senator and former presidential candidate from the US, tweeted that ‘we have NO IDEA how many cases China really has’ after the US infection total passed Beijing’s official figure.
‘Without any doubt it’s significantly more than what they admit to,’ he added.
Meanwhile the UK government has also cast doubt on China’s reporting, with Conservative minister and former Prime Ministerial candidate Michael Gove claiming the Communist Party could not be trusted.
‘Some of the reporting from China was not clear about the scale, the nature, the infectiousness of this [virus],’ he told the BBC.
Meanwhile sources told the Mail that China’s true infection total could be anything up to 40 times as high as reports had suggested.
Marco Rubio, a prominent Republican senator, has said that China’s figures cannot be trusted and a far higher than has been reported
Doubt has also been cast on China’s reported death toll from the virus.
Locals in epicenter city Wuhan have been keeping an eye on funeral homes since lockdown restrictions were partly lifted, claiming they have been ‘working around the clock’ to dispose of bodies.
China has reported a few thousand deaths from the virus, but social media users in Wuhan have suggested the toll could be in excess of 42,000
Social media posts estimate that 3,500 urns are being handed out by crematoriums each day, while Caixin reports that one funeral home in the city placed an order for 5,000 urns.
Locals believe that efforts to dispose of the bodies began March 23 and city authorities have said the process will end on or around April 5.
That would mean roughly 42,000 urns handed out in that time frame, ten times the reported figure.
Chinese aid packages
As it brought its own coronavirus epidemic under control and as the disease spread across the rest of the world, China attempted to paint itself as a helpful neighbour by sending aid and supplies to countries most in need – such as Italy.
In fact, while the Chinese Red Cross supplied some free equipment to the Italians, the country purchased a large amount of what it received.
Meanwhile officials in Spain said that a batch of coronavirus testing kits bought from China had just 30 per cent reliability – unlike the 80 per cent they were promised.
China has said it is willing to help supply the world with much needed aid and supplies, but has been accused of hoarding protective equipment and selling test kits that don’t work
China is also the world’s largest manufacturer of disposable masks of the kind being worn to slow the spread of the virus by people while out in public.
But as the disease began gathering speed in the country in January, China began limiting exports of the masks while also buying up supplies from other countries, the New York Times reported.
As well as halting virtually all exports of masks, China also bought up some 56million masks and respirators from overseas while fears of a pandemic were still far off.
Despite reports from US mask manufacturers of factories in Shanghai being effectively nationalised, China denies it has any such policy in place and has said it is ‘willing to strengthen international cooperation’ on the issue.