Rising COVID-19 cases in China raise concerns about cost of containment

China is sticking to its zero-COVID strategy that has put millions of people in lockdown.

China reported a sharp increase in daily COVID-19 infections yesterday, with new cases more than doubling from the day before to reach a two-year high, raising concerns about the mounting economic costs of its tough measures to contain the disease. According to the National Health Commission, 3,507 domestically transmitted cases with symptoms were reported on Monday spanning more than a dozen provinces and municipalities, up from 1,337 the day before. The majority of the new cases were found in Jilin, a province in northeastern China, which is scrambling to rein in the fast spread of the Omicron variant. Jilin announced that all its 24.1 million residents were prohibited from traveling out of or into the province, or across different areas within the province. Though some countries around the world are dropping pandemic measures, China is sticking to its zero-COVID strategy.

Manufacturers of everything from flash drives to glass for Apple's iPhone screens are warning of shipment delays, putting additional strain on global supply chains. The sharp rise has fueled concerns about China's development prospects, causing market sentiment to decline, with Chinese stocks ending at 21-month lows on Tuesday and oil prices falling to a two-week low. A COVID-19 forecasting system run by Lanzhou University in China’s northwest predicted the current round of infections will eventually be brought under control in early April after about 35,000 cases. On Monday, the university said that while the latest outbreak was the most serious on the mainland since the virus was detected in 2020, China could bring it under control by sticking to stringent curbs.