More than 200 million people are facing a fresh lockdown in China as the Communist Party rolls out draconian new restrictions despite just a handful of cases.
Some 28 cities – including the virus’s ground zero Wuhan – are now under a wave of crippling new measures.
Data released to The Sun Online by economic analysis firm Nomura shows 208 million people are currently living under some level of lockdown in China.
It is believed two highly contagious subvariant of Omicron – BF.7 and BA.5.1.7 – are responsible for the recent spike in cases.
China officials have described the variants as “highly contagious” as they can also infect people who had been previously immune.
“According to government statistics and our survey, 28 cities are currently implementing various levels of lockdown or some kind of district-based control measures,” Nomura said.
Nomura added the total number of people under restrictions has actually fallen from the previous week’s figures of 225 million.
But the strictest of the lockdowns has actually increased and is now impacting 8.5 per cent of China’s GDP.
The seven-day-moving average of cases also dropped from 1333 to 820.
Beijing officials however considered this relatively low caseload in a country of 1.4 billion enough to plunge millions in lockdown.
More than three times the population of the whole UK is currently living under restrictions in China.
Wuhan yesterday joined the 27 other cities after registering just 240 cases over the last two weeks.
The city was the site of the world’s first Covid outbreak – sounding the alarm to the World Health Organisation on December 31, 2019.
The outbreak then spiraled into a global pandemic that has so far killed more than 6.5 million people and infected 635 million.
Beijing is taking a no-tolerance approach to the virus – enforcing the new rules after just 20 to 25 new infections a day this week.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping – who was this week made “Emperor for Life” – is continuing to roll out what has been dubbed as the “world’s strictest lockdown”.
Cops wearing hazmat suits and wielding machine guns have been brutally enforcing the rules.
Quarantine camps, food shortages. cops seizing people’s homes, tags on Covid patients, and drones policing the streets have all been seen across China.
And yet the caseload in China is claimed to have been comparatively low throughout the entirety of the pandemic.
The most they ever suffered was on February 12, 2020, with 14,108 new cases – and the most they faced this year was 5659 on April 29.
Britain meanwhile recorded an all-time daily case figure of 275,647 on January 5, 2022 – which is higher than what China claims is its all-time case figure over the last 1,031 days of 258,398.
China’s draconian response to the virus has raised the spectre of a return to the potential for rising cases around the world as we head into the winter months.
But the West has rolled out much more effective vaccination programs, making countries better equipped to deal with any spikes in infections.
China appears to be pursuing a national policy of self-isolation as the Communist Party have made Covid Zero its flagship plan.
Xi doubled down on the policy in a recent speech – and vowed all measures are due to stay for the foreseeable future.
He has claimed his plans are about saving people’s lives.
China has not recorded a single Covid death since May – and from April 2020 to April 2022 it only recorded six deaths.
Is this a sign of the success of Xi’s policies, or a sign of the Chinese state’s over-reaction?
Wuhan was the guinea pig as China pioneered the idea of “lockdowns” – with the 76-day shutdown becoming the template followed by cities from London to New York to Melbourne.
Xi’s refusal to abandon his plan has been credited with causing deep economic damage – and for stoking rare open unrest in China.
Covid Zero has been described in some reports as a “trap of its own making” for the Communist Party.
Virologist Jin Dongyan, from Hong Kong University, told The Washington Post: “If they open up now, there will be a major outbreak immediately.
“However, even if they do not open up, a major outbreak will sooner or later arise somewhere.”
The scientists added the approach is “not sustainable” and “someone has made the wrong judgment”.
“They wrongly assessed the situation in the world, and they cannot come out from their own comfort zone,” he said.
It was suggested the latest Covid cases in Wuhan could have been linked to the sale of meat.
And this matches with the theory that may have first emerged from Wuhan’s now-infamous Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market.
The first cases of the virus were centred on the wet market in downtown Wuhan which was packed with live animals for sale.
It is suggested the virus could have jumped from one species to another before then mutating to infect humans.
Some have cast heavy doubt on this theory, however – instead pointing fingers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).
WIV was home to various bat-based coronaviruses, and it’s been suggested the infection could have escaped or been carried out by a sick worker.
China has always angrily denied these allegations – and the true origins of the virus remain unknown.
“I don’t know what to do. If we can still survive living like this then I suppose that’s what we’ll do,” one Wuhan resident told Reuters.
“When we see these news stories about Covid, we now feel a bit numb. We feel numb to it all.
“We feel more and more numb.”
Wuhan was not the only new lockdown in China – with Guangzhou also being sealed up.
People were ordered to stay home in areas that were deemed high risk of Covid resurgence.
Guangzhou resident Lily Li, 28, said: “Many of my friends and co-workers have been under lockdown at home.
“The situation is still unstable. Many places are under lockdown. Classes have stopped and entertainment venues have been suspended too.”
And meanwhile, in Xining there have been reports of food shortages and skyrocketing prices.
Other recent Covid outbreaks in China has seen the cities of Datong and Xi’an put under new measures.
Beijing attraction Universal Studios Resort was also shut down due to a single Covid case, and there were viral cases at a factory in Zhengzhou which makes iPhones.
“Once there’s a case somewhere, and then you become a close contact, you’ve got to be in quarantine,” said Beijing resident Wen Bihan, 26.
With a total of 28 cities under some measure of lockdown – this is impacting a region responsible for $3.5 trillion, or 25 per cent, of China’s GDP.
It stokes fears that Xi’s ruthless Covid Zero policies could actually be the doom of his nation.
China has recorded a total of 258,000 Covid cases and just over 5000 deaths – a small number compared to other nations.
There has been major scepticism about China’s figures – with numerous reports suggesting the Communist Party covered up the true extent of the giant nation’s outbreak.
This story was published by The Sun and was reproduced with permission.