COVID-19 cases in China hit a daily record, prompting government officials to extend pandemic lockdowns days after authorities reported the country’s first coronavirus d*ath in six months.

The number of new COVID cases has increased by 31,444 in the past 24 hours – the highest daily number since the first coronavirus cases were detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, the National Health Commission said on Thursday.

Meanwhile, residents in eight districts of Zhengzhou, a city in north-central Henan province where factory workers recently clashed with police during a pay dispute, were instructed to stay home for five days from Thursday except for groceries or medical treatment. Daily mass testing for the city’s 6.6 million residents was ordered.

The number of COVID d*aths reported this week brings the d*ath toll in China to 5,232.

The country’s ruling Communist Party is committed to a zero-COVID strategy to eradicate the virus that has killed millions of people around the world over the past three years.

China recorded its highest number of COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began on Wednesday as authorities stuck to a strict zero-tolerance approach to containing the virus with lockdowns, mandatory testing, mask-wearing orders and quarantines while China struggled to contain the outbreak.

China’s borders remain largely closed as the number of cases rises. At a press conference on Thursday, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said the country would continue to improve various COVID protocols “according to scientific and targeted principles” to facilitate travel and exchanges with other countries.

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