Hong KongCNN —
China has reported its first deaths of Covid-19 patients in nearly six months as the country struggles to contain a surge in cases across multiple cities that’s testing the limits of its tough zero-Covid strategy.
On Monday, China’s National Health Commission reported two deaths of Covid-19 patients in Beijing for Sunday, following the death of an 87-year-old man in the capital on Saturday.
It comes as the country faces a surge of cases, with 26,824 new infections reported on Sunday, according to the National Health Commission – the highest daily number since mid-April and the sixth consecutive day over 20,000.
Before this weekend, China’s most recent Covid-19 related death was on May 26 in Shanghai, which was locked down for two months until June over a major outbreak.
China is the world’s last major economy still enforcing strict zero-Covid measures, which aim to stamp out chains of transmission through border restrictions, mass testing, extensive quarantines, and snap lockdowns on neighborhoods or entire cities – sometimes for months on end.
Earlier this month, the Chinese government announced limited easing of its zero-Covid policy, discouraging unnecessary mass testing and overly zealous classification of restricted “high risk” areas. It also scrapped quarantine requirements for secondary close contacts and reduced the time close contacts and international arrivals must spend in quarantine.
Following the announcement, several Chinese cities canceled mass Covid tests, but the stringent restrictions imposed by local authorities to contain outbreaks remain in place.
In the southern metropolis of Guangzhou, authorities on Monday imposed a five-day lockdown on Baiyun, the city’s most populous district with 3.7 million residents and home to one of the country’s busiest international airports.
The city is the epicenter of China’s ongoing outbreak, having reported tens of thousands of cases and locked down several districts this month. Last week, some residents revolted against an extended lockdown, tearing down barriers and marching down streets.