China's Xi says sticking to tough Covid curbs will bring victory

President Xi Jinping has said that China must stick to its strict "dynamic Covid clearance" policy while the global pandemic remains very serious, promising those enduring lockdowns that persistence will win out in the end.

China's zero-Covid policy has put millions of people into lockdown and has had a growing impact on the world's second-largest economy, in contrast with other countries that have thrown off restrictions even though the virus is still spreading.

"We must persist putting people above all, life above all … We must adhere to scientific precision, to dynamic zero-Covid," Xi said during a visit to the southern island of Hainan on Wednesday, state media reported.

"The current global pandemic is still very serious, and we cannot relax the prevention and control work. Persistence is victory."

The coronavirus first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019. Wuhan's lockdown in early 2020 heralded a Chinese policy that significantly limited the spread of the virus for most of the next two years.

But new outbreaks of the fast-spreading Omicron variant began flaring early this year.

The epicentre of China's battle with Covid is now the financial hub of Shanghai where most of its 25 million residents are under lockdown.

Shanghai authorities said on Thursday the daily tally of new asymptomatic cases had risen again, to 25,146 compared with 25,141 a day earlier. Symptomatic cases rose to 2,573 from 1,189.

But raising hopes for a shift in policy, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a guide on home quarantining on its social media page on Wednesday.

Under China's tough rules, even people with asymptomatic or very mild cases must go into quarantine at centralised facilities, where many people have complained about poor conditions.

The CDC's guide on quarantine at home – in a well-ventilated room stocked with masks, sanitiser and other gear – raised hopes that the rule for quarantine at state facilities might be relaxed.

But when asked by a social media user in an online comment about who might be eligible for home quarantine, the CDC referred to the old rules.

Authorities in Shanghai also gave no hint of any change in strategy at a Thursday briefing.

An official said that cases in the city continued to rise despite the lockdown in part because of a backlog with test results and also because transmission between family members was still going on. 

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