Mayors sacked, millions locked down amid China’s worst COVID outbreak since 2020

Authorities in China have introduced new drastic measures in an attempt to thwart the biggest COVID-19 outbreak in the country since the beginning of the pandemic.

According to China’s National Health Commission, there were 1,938 new confirmed COVID cases on Saturday March 12, with 1,807 linked to local transmissions and 131 from overseas.

Confirmed cases on the Chinese mainland now total 115,466.

Cases have been trending up in China over the past few weeks despite the country’s hardline zero-COVID policy. At the epicentre of the new spike in cases is the northeastern province on Jilin.

Of the 1,807 new local cases reported across China on Saturday 1,412 were reported in Jilin, with the total number of infections in the province now surpassing 3500. There were zero known cases in the region only weeks ago.

The worst affected cities are the Province’s capital, Changchun, which is home to 9 million people, along with Jilin City – a city of around 3.5 million people which is 72 miles away from Changchun.

Officials sacked

Chinese state media has reported the sackings of three municipal officials from Jilin City and Changdun.

Xinhua reports Wang Lu (Jilin City mayor), Li Xin (Changchun mayor), and Gao Yutang (director of the Changchun Municipal Health Commission) have all been stood down. However, no reason for their sackings has been provided.

Changchun lockdown

The industrial city of Changchun appears to be the focus of the new COVID containment measures.

Officials there on Saturday introduced new rules stipulating that only one person per household is allowed to leave their homes to buy essentials, and only once every two days.

Meanwhile, authorities say they are preparing to test all 9 million people in Changchun using nucleic acid tests.

A new makeshift hospital has also been established in the city, offering 1500 beds. The hospital began operating on Sunday.

Lockdowns loom in Beijing, Shanghai

Many observers believe Beijing and Shanghai could also be on the cusp of lockdowns, with containment measures being tightened in the two major cities in recent days.

In Shanghai schools have been closed while entertainment venues have been forced to re-introduce capacity restrictions.

On Sunday, the Shanghai Disneyland Park said effectively immediately guest would be required to “present proof of a negative Nucleic Acid Test taken within 24 hours prior to entering Shanghai Disney Resort.”

It also said reduced capacities would be introduced at shows and all guests will be required to wear masks during their entire visit to the resort, including both indoors and outdoors

In Beijing local authorities are demanding anyone entering the city takes nucleic acid tests and avoid group meals or public gatherings for their first seven days in the city.

Vaccinations continue

Despite the new outbreak, China’s National Health Commission said over 5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine were administered in a single day on Wednesday March 9.

The total number of COVID vaccines injected in China has now reached nearly 3.175 billion, according to the Commission.

“The general public is requested to take the initiative to vaccinate as soon as possible. Everyone must maintain a normal awareness of prevention and control, insist on wearing masks when going out, wash hands frequently, ventilate frequently, maintain social distance, do not have meals, do not gather, and reduce Risk of disease infection,” said the Jilin Provincial Health Commission in a statement on Sunday.

Related: Financial hub crippled as COVID case numbers hit new record