China is expanding locksincluding in the city center where factory workers clashed with the police this weekas the number of COVID-19 cases hit a daily record.

People in eight districts of Zhengzhou, with a total population of 6.6 million, were told to stay at home for five days starting Thursday, except for food purchases or medical treatment. Daily mass testing was ordered as part of what the city government called a “war of annihilation” against the virus.

In clashes on Tuesday and Wednesday, police in Zhengzhou beat workers protesting over a pay dispute at Apple’s largest iPhone factory.

Across China, the number of new cases reported in the past 24 hours totaled 31,444, the National Health Commission said on Thursday. This is the highest daily number since the coronavirus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.

Everyday life in China in the face of a global pandemic
A man wears a mask to protect against the spread of COVID-19 as he crosses an almost empty street in the Central Business District, November 23, 2022, Beijing, China. In an effort to contain the rising number of cases, local authorities closed most shops and restaurants last week, switched schools to online learning and asked people to work from home.

Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

The daily average of reported cases continues to increase. This week, authorities reported the first COVID-19 d*aths in China in six months, bringing the total to 5,232 d*aths.

Although the number of cases and d*aths is relatively low compared to the United States and elsewhere, the ruling Communist Party of China remains true to its zero-COVID strategy, which aims to isolate each case and eradicate the virus completely while other governments end their anti-virus efforts controls and relies on vaccination and past infection immunity to prevent d*ath and serious illness.

Businesses and residential communities from the manufacturing center of Guangzhou in the south to Beijing in the north have also been subject to various forms of lockdowns, particularly affecting migrant workers from working-class collars. In many cases, residents say the restrictions go beyond what the national government allows.

Guangzhou suspended access to its Baiyun district of 3.7 million on Monday, while residents in some areas of Shijiazhuang, a city of 11 million southwest of Beijing, were told to stay home while mass testing was conducted.

This week, Beijing opened a hospital at the exhibition center and suspended access to the Beijing University of International Studies after a case of the virus was detected there. The capital previously closed shopping malls and office buildings and suspended access to some housing estates.

The tightening came after the Communist Party announced measures this month to reduce disruption by shortening quarantines and making other changes.

The party is trying to contain the latest wave of the epidemic without closing factories and the rest of the economy, as it did in early 2020. Its tactics include “circular management”, where workers live in their factories without outside contact.

Economic growth rebounded to 3.9% in the three months ended September, down from 2.2% in the first half of the year earlier, to 3.9%. But activity was already starting to decline, and growth this year is on track to fall well below the government’s target of 5.5%.

Foxconn, the world’s largest assembler of smartphones and other electronics, is struggling to fulfill iPhone 14 orders after thousands of workers left its Zhengzhou factory last month amid complaints about unsafe working conditions.

Foxconn, based in Taiwan, said its contractual payment obligation “has always been met”.

The company denied what it claimed were online comments that workers with the virus were living in dormitories at the factory in Zhengzhou. It said the facilities had been disinfected and had undergone government inspections before employees moved in.

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