China Reports First COVID Deaths In A Year, Rules Out Relaxing 'Zero COVID' Strategy

China reported two COVID-19 deaths on Saturday, the first since January 2021. China is currently witnessing a two-year high surge in COVID cases.

China is witnessing a surge in COVID-19 cases

China on Saturday reported two COVID-19 deaths, the first since January 2021, amid a spike in the coronavirus cases prompting authorities to rule out relaxing the much-criticised "dynamic zero-COVID" policy of restricting international travel to control the latest outbreak.

The latest surge in cases in the last few weeks was a two-year high in the country, denting official claims of China being one of the best performers in curbing COVID-19 pandemic.

China’s National Health Commission on Saturday reported two deaths due to coronavirus, the first since January 2021, taking the death toll since the COVID-19 emerged in Wuhan in December 2019 to 4,638 people.

The Commission reported about 4,000 new cases, including 1,823 asymptomatic cases, on Friday. In all, 18,586 people are undergoing treatment.

The virus was prevalent in 15 provincial-level regions, while cases continue to remain high in Jilin province which reported 1,674 cases on Saturday.

Vice Premier Sun Chunlan has asked the health officials to step up measures to contain the virus.

Sun stressed that all those that need to be hospitalised or isolated should be done so to completely stamp out all community infections, and work must be done to optimise the process of detection, diagnosis, review and information reporting.

She also urged efforts to balance nucleic acid testing resources across the regions and improve emergency response capacity, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Meanwhile, amid the spike in cases, China has ruled out relaxing its much-criticised "dynamic zero-COVID" policy of restricting international travel and minimising contacts with the outside world.

China will adhere to its "dynamic zero-COVID" policy to contain its current outbreak, Wang Hesheng, vice-minister of the National Health Commission and administrator of the National Disease Control and Prevention Administration, told the media on Friday.

The goal of the 'zero case policy' approach is to bring the epidemic under control in the shortest possible time with minimum cost to society, official media in China quoted him as saying.

The essence of the approach is swift response and targeted prevention and control, he said.

China has pledged rigorous and targeted COVID-19 prevention and control measures to contain the latest wave of infections caused by the Omicron variant, Wang said.  

"The 'dynamic zero' policy does have some impact on life and work," Wang admitted. "But considering people's safety and health, the sacrifices will be worth it."

Under this policy, China has drastically cut international travel which has affected lakhs of foreign students, including over 23,000 Indians mostly studying medicine, who are stuck in India following the cancellation of visas and flights.