Chinese police
Chinese policeReuters

One of the last countries to still have a “Zero COVID” policy is China – and it’s not going so well.

On Sunday, China reported nearly 3,400 new cases, twice the number recorded the previous day, prompting authorities to lock down entire neighborhoods in affected areas. In the city of Jilin, for instance, “hundreds” of neighborhoods have been sealed, according to officials, and the city’s residents have gone through six rounds of mass testing.

Zhang Yan, an official on the Jilin health commission, noted the difficulties of responding effectively to the latest outbreaks. “The emergency response mechanism in some areas is not robust enough,” he said at a press briefing. “There is insufficient understanding of the characteristics of the Omicron variant … and judgment has been inaccurate.” The mayor of Jilin has now been dismissed; officials in other stricken cities have met a similar fate.

Meanwhile, the country’s national health commission announced last week that use of rapid antigen tests would be introduced and would be made available for home-testing. And despite the official line, a top Chinese scientist said the country should aim to coexist with the virus rather than eradicate it.

Nonetheless, on Saturday, the Chinese vice-premier, Sun Chunlan, urged regions to quickly pounce on and clear outbreaks, indicating that the policy of mass lockdowns remains an option.