New Delhi: Nearly 37 million people in China may have been infected with Covid-19 on a single day this week, according to estimates from the government’s top health authority, making the country’s outbreak by far the world’s largest, Bloomberg reported.
As many as 248 million people, or nearly 18 per cent of the population, likely contracted the virus in the first 20 days of December, according to minutes from an internal meeting of China’s National Health Commission held on Wednesday, confirmed with people involved in the discussions.
If accurate, the infection rate would dwarf the previous daily record of about 4 million, set in January 2022, Bloomberg reported.
Chinese officials and companies are letting Covid-positive people return to work in a bid to keep the economy running, despite a massive Covid surge that could be as large as a million cases a day, Fortune reported.
Officials in Zhejiang province announced over the weekend that those who test positive for Covid could go to work, so long as they showed no symptoms. Then on Monday, Chongqing, one of China’s largest cities and a major manufacturing hub, went one step further by allowing those with mild symptoms to return to the office without testing.
A day later, city officials in Beijing said that Covid-positive patients in home isolation could return to work without needing to test so long as they did not have a fever. Previously, a negative test was required to leave home isolation, Fortune reported.
Directives from Chinese government officials that allow people to go work sick represent a major change in tone from just weeks ago, when Beijing was still wedded to a tough policy of lockdowns and mass testing to completely suppress Covid outbreaks. Now, as China rapidly eases its Covid controls, officials are trying to reassure ordinary Chinese worried about a rapid surge in cases.
Factories are also trying to prepare their workforces for a Covid wave. On December 12, Qin Lihong, president of electric-car maker Nio, told reporters that the company had “sent trucks of medicines and equipment to the factory to be well prepared”.
Some manufacturers are using “closed-loop” systems, where workers live on-site with strict movement controls, in order to keep infections out. Companies like Tesla used these systems to keep factory lines running during earlier Covid outbreaks and lockdowns, Fortune reported.