China has been struggling to stamp out its worst outbreak in two years regardless of lockdowns and mass testing as it sticks to a strict zero-Covid policy, taking a heavy toll on businesses and public morale.

Shanghai has been almost entirely locked down since the start of the month seriously affecting supply chains, with many residents confined to their homes for even longer as it became the epicentre of the outbreak.

Shanghai only announced its first fatalities from the outbreak on April 18, despite reporting thousands of cases each day in recent weeks.

It reported 39 more deaths on Sunday, National Health Commission data showed, bringing its total toll to 87, while the country logged nearly 22,000 new local virus cases.

Shanghai’s previous highest daily toll since lockdown was 12, reported a day earlier. The city has struggled to provide food to those confined at home, while patients have reported trouble accessing regular medical care as thousands of health staff were deployed for Covid testing and treatment.

Health officials have warned of the particular risks of Covid to the country’s older and largely unvaccinated population, saying the average age among fatalities in Shanghai’s outbreak was 81.

Five of those who died had been vaccinated, though authorities have said the deaths involved people who had severe underlying diseases and who were in critical condition.

Doubts have been raised over the efficacy of China’s homegrown vaccines, and Beijing has not imported any foreign-made jabs.

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