China just reported its biggest one-day covid case increase yet
The news: China reported 5,370 new covid cases today, the biggest one-day increase since the pandemic began, and more than double the number reported yesterday. It’s a tiny proportion of China’s population of 1.4 billion people, but it has prompted the government to extend an existing lockdown to the entire Jilin province, meaning over 80 million people in China are now locked down.
A major test: Right from the start, China has pursued a “covid zero” policy of eliminating the virus through lockdowns, travel restrictions and mass testing. However, omicron, which is far more transmissible than any previous covid variant, will make this policy harder than ever to achieve. Although China has reportedly vaccinated over 85% of its population, omicron is better than any previous variant at evading immunity from vaccines (although vaccines still hold up well at preventing severe disease.) China is hampered by the fact that it doesn’t have access to mRNA vaccines, which have proved especially effective against omicron. Although China is working on its own mRNA vaccines, it will be many months before any shot could become available to the general population there.
Global impact: One of the areas under lockdown, Shenzhen, is a major tech hub and home to companies like Foxconn which supply Western companies, including Apple. It’s scheduled to remain under lockdown for at least another five days while local residents undergo several rounds of testing, meaning some degree of impact on global tech supply chains is inevitable.
What’s happening elsewhere: Meanwhile, Europe also seems to be starting to enter another covid surge, with cases ticking up in countries across the continent. In the UK, cases are up nearly 50% week-on-week and, worryingly, hospitalizations are up by 17%. A combination of looser restrictions, waning immunity and BA.2, a more transmissible omicron sub-variant, are believed to be behind the increase in cases.