China is facing a"tsunami" of Omicron, a senior official said on Friday, as the country reported over 20,000 COVID-19 cases with its largest city Shanghai continuing to reel under lockdown for over three weeks while over 21 million people in capital Beijing underwent third nucleic acid test amid the growing list of “high-risk areas”.
All the residents in Beijing will be required to have a negative COVID-19 test within 48 hours to enter public spaces from Saturday, the municipal government said on Friday.
A negative test result will be required to enter public venues during the upcoming five-day Labour Day holiday, and students and employees should produce their test results before they go back to work or school after the holiday, according to a press conference on local epidemic prevention and control work.
On Friday, two communities in Beijing were classified as high-risk and medium-risk areas for COVID-19. The latest classifications have brought the total number of high-risk areas in Beijing to six and medium-risk areas to 19, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
“Currently we are faced with the Omicron tsunami. This variant spread very fast, much faster than we can imagine," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a media briefing here on Friday, the first official account of the extent of the current wave of COVID-19 which is affecting city after city in China just when the world has largely came out of it.
China’s National Health Commission on Friday reported over 20,000 positive and asymptomatic cases with Shanghai reporting over 15,000 cases on Thursday besides deaths taking the total toll during the nearly month-long outbreak to 337.
Zhao said China brought under control Delta variant spread in 2021 in about 14 days but the Omicron attack was far more severe. He was replying to a question on the EU Chamber of Commerce in China expressing concern about the state of the world’s second-largest economy and its criticism that the “zero-COVID” policy has led the country into a dead end.
Joerg Wuttke, President of the EU Chamber, in an interview said Shanghai, China’s biggest business hub, has been in lockdown for a month and China’s economy is suffering an enormous slump.
The supply chains are so interlinked that lockdown measures in one place have ripple effects on other regions, he said, urging China to take an example from Singapore, where politics and society have learned to live with the coronavirus.
“China is losing its credibility as the best sourcing location in the world," he said.
“The Omicron wave is like a game of whack-a-mole for China. First Xian was locked down, then Shenzhen, then Shanghai, and so on. Now we're all wondering what’s next," he said in the interview published in themarket.ch.
“The case of Shanghai is bad. In its own image, it is the best and most advanced city in China; from Shanghai’s point of view, Beijing is a province and Xian is a backwater. And then life in this metropolis grinds to a complete standstill. We in the international business community look to Europe and see how a somewhat normal life has returned, because people and governments have learned to live with the virus. Here in China, the authorities always fall back to square one," he said.
On Friday, Beijing, which has restricted the activities of a few hundred communities in the city including several in the high-end diplomatic Chaoyang district, conducted the third round of tests in the city.
Millions of people lined up for the tests in the morning. So far, such tests were held on Monday and Wednesday. After the Friday tests results, the city is expected to decide whether to opt for a Shanghai-style lockdown, which has resulted in panic buying of essentials for the past few days.
As the situation turned grim, the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) headed by Xi Jinping held its Political Bureau to analyse the situation.
Noting that the economy faces growing complexities and uncertainties, the meeting stressed the importance of economic stability and ensuring and improving people's livelihoods, official media reported.
The meeting called for upholding the "people first, lives first" principle and the dynamic zero-COVID approach to protect people's lives and health, and minimise the impact of the epidemic on economic and social development.
China should step up macro policy adjustment and work hard to achieve annual economic and social development goals, and keep the economy running within a reasonable range, according to the meeting.