China Covid-19 cases stay elevated as health chief urges more tests

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) – China reported 1,824 new Covid-19 cases for Sunday (Aug 21) as the country struggles to control its biggest outbreak since the Shanghai lockdown earlier this year.

Infections have surged to the highest in around three months, with tourist destinations worst hit among the current round of flareups.

The southern island of Hainan reported 767 cases for Sunday, the most among all provinces.

The latest outbreaks are testing Beijing’s zero-Covid policy as the government seeks to strike a balance between containing the virus and maintaining economic growth.

Disruptions from potential lockdowns are a major uncertainty for the economy, which is also facing a property crisis, record-high youth unemployment and more recently, severe drought.

China’s Vice-Premier Sun Chunlan, who visited Hainan last week, said the fight against Covid in the province has reached a crucial stage and more testing needs to be done in areas seriously hit by the outbreak, Xinhua news agency reported.

Cities and counties with no infections also need to take preventative measures, according to Madam Sun, who is also the nation’s health czar.

Meantime, neighbouring Hong Kong will reopen one of its biggest Covid-19 isolation facilities as case numbers hit the highest in more than four months, putting strain on the hospital system and sparking uncertainty around whether the city can further ease virus policies.

An additional 200 beds will open at Asia World Expo starting next week, with 100 health care workers to staff the facility.

The Kai Tak facility began operating on Aug 19, offering an additional 2,700 units, including some for large families. It is already housing about 60 patients.

It’s part of a new stage of Covid management to alleviate pressure on the health-care system, with non-emergency services at hospitals to also be further reduced in order to free up beds and manpower.

Hong Kong registered 6,513 new cases on Sunday, the highest since March 31.

There were an additional eight patients in critical condition, bringing the city’s total to 43, and eight new serious infections, for a total of 30, reported on Sunday. Three people died.  

Mr Woo Ying-ming, commissioner of the city’s Independent Commission Against Corruption, was among those to test positive, the agency said in a statement on Sunday.