Beijing Sees Record Covid Cases as China Outbreak Spirals

China is battling a spiraling nationwide Covid outbreak Noel CELIS AFP/File
China is battling a spiraling nationwide Covid outbreak Noel CELIS AFP/File
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Beijing Sees Record Covid Cases as China Outbreak Spirals

China is battling a spiraling nationwide Covid outbreak Noel CELIS AFP/File
China is battling a spiraling nationwide Covid outbreak Noel CELIS AFP/File

China's capital Beijing posted a record number of new Covid cases on Tuesday, with the city hunkering down under a tightening chokehold of restrictions that have sent schools online, closed many restaurants and forced employees to work from home.

More than 28,000 new infections were reported nationwide -- nearing the record high since the pandemic began -- with Guangdong province and the city of Chongqing logging over 16,000 and 6,300 cases respectively, health authorities said.

New cases in Beijing have also jumped in recent days, more than doubling from 621 on Sunday to Tuesday's 1,438 -- a pandemic record for the city, said AFP.

The last major economy still welded to a zero-tolerance Covid policy, China enforced snap lockdowns, mass testing and quarantines to control outbreaks to great success in the earlier stages of the pandemic.

But the latest spiraling outbreak is testing the limits of that playbook, with officials keen to avoid citywide lockdowns like Shanghai's two-month ordeal in April, which marred the finance hub's economy and international image.

Three elderly Beijing residents with underlying diseases died from Covid over the weekend, authorities said, marking China's first Covid deaths since May.

While the capital has so far avoided a blanket shutdown, there have been widely enforced snap lockdowns of individual buildings and long PCR testing queues due to the requirement for a 24-hour negative test for entry to most public spaces.

Over the weekend, authorities advised residents to stay and home and not travel between districts. And on Monday required travelers to the city to test more times after they arrive.

Many tourist attractions, gyms and parks have been closed, with large-scale events such as concerts cancelled.

China declared its most significant easing of coronavirus measures to date on November 11, billed as an "optimization" to limit the economic and social impact of zero-Covid measures.

Among the steps was a reduction of compulsory quarantine times for international arrivals.

Multiple Chinese cities cancelled mass Covid testing last week but some later reinstated them, underlining the difficulty of controlling the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

Shijiazhuang, which had previously cancelled mass testing, began a partial lockdown Monday after cases surged, while several districts of southern epicenter Guangzhou also locked down the same day.

The limited relaxation has not marked a reversal of zero-Covid, which has left China internationally isolated, wreaked havoc on the economy, and sparked protests in a country where dissent is routinely crushed.



Israeli Polls Show Netanyahu Party Narrowing Gap Behind Gantz 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz attends a news conference in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Oct. 28, 2023. (AP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz attends a news conference in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Oct. 28, 2023. (AP)
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Israeli Polls Show Netanyahu Party Narrowing Gap Behind Gantz 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz attends a news conference in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Oct. 28, 2023. (AP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz attends a news conference in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Oct. 28, 2023. (AP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right wing Likud party has reduced the gap behind the centrist party of former minister Benny Gantz, who quit the wartime unity government on Sunday, two polls showed on Friday.

The polls, for the left wing Ma'ariv daily and the right-wing Israel Hayom newspaper, showed Likud winning 21 seats behind the National Unity Party on 24. The Ma'ariv poll last week showed Gantz's party on 27 seats, while at the start of the year, it was regularly polling in the high 30s.

The Ma'ariv poll shows the current ruling coalition winning 52 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, against 58 for the main opposition parties, with the balance of 10 seats held by the United Arab List and the left-wing Hadash-Ta'al alliance.

The Israel Hayom poll put the coalition on 50 seats against 61 for the opposition parties and 9 for the UAL and Hadash-Ta'al.

Both polls showed a majority of voters would prefer Gantz as prime minister in a head-to-head choice with Netanyahu. However, the Israel Hayom poll showed that if former prime minister Naftali Bennett were to join forces with Avigdor Liberman and Gideon Saar, two other center right politicians from outside the Likud camp, their alliance could beat both Likud and Gantz's National Unity Party.

Gantz, a former army general and defense minister in the last government, joined Netanyahu's coalition last year as a gesture of national unity following the devastating attack by Hamas on Oct 7.

However, he clashed repeatedly with other ministers and quit the government after demanding Netanyahu articulate a clear strategic plan for the war in Gaza, now in its ninth month.

Netanyahu, who was widely blamed for the security failures that allowed the Oct. 7 attack to take place, has refused to call early elections and would not normally face voters until 2026 if his coalition with a clutch of religious and right-wing pro-settler parties holds.