Modest spike in cases reported in Beijing; more international flights scheduled

During the past week – when the 20th Party Congress was held in Beijing – total Covid cases in the city (locally transmitted, symptomatic, asymptomatic and imported) reached a peak of 48 in one day in the middle of the week, but have dropped to below 20 in the past two days. Many cases were detected in people already under quarantine, indicating that the testing system was working.

The world’s largest iPhone factory, run by Foxconn Technology Group in Zhengzhou, Henan province, has imposed tough Covid-19 control policies, such as closing its canteen, to keep production running normally amid a fresh outbreak that has put part of the city under lockdown. Foxconn’s Zhengzhou workers are only permitted to commute along certain routes within the factory campus, with many entrances closed in a de facto lockdown. The company has also urged workers living outside the campus to move into on-site dormitories. “Production in the Zhengzhou campus remains normal, without a notable impact,” a Foxconn spokesman said. The new measures come as Foxconn’s factory ramps up production of the latest iPhone 14 models.

Some people had hoped that the zero-Covid policy would be relaxed after the end of the Congress, but General Secretary Xi jinping indicated in his work report that the policy would continue. The personnel reshuffle in the Communist Party is continuing, and in the coming months new central government ministers and provincial governors will be selected for promotion, culminating in the annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC) in March, which will approve the new appointments. However, since Xi Jinping is setting out the overall policy – including on the pandemic – few fundamental changes are to be expected.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Wang Wenbin said that the government has full confidence to win the battle against Covid-19 and will make greater contributions in global solidarity against the virus, adding that Covid-19 is still being regarded as a public health emergency of international concern by the World Health Organization (WHO), the WHO's highest alert level. Wang said that China has been closely following the development of the pandemic. At present, the Covid-19 pandemic still runs at a high level in the world, and the continuous variation of the virus brings great uncertainty, Wang said. “The pandemic is not over.” The WHO recently called on all countries to continue to work hard and not let down their guard, and to continue to strengthen the detection of virus mutations and of vaccination, Wang said.

There is some goods news on the travel front. Major Chinese airlines have announced plans to largely restore international flights this month to further boost cross-border exchanges. This is also expected to lead to price drops. The Chinese government has called for an “orderly increase in the number of domestic and international flights, while taking convenience measures for the travel of foreign company staffers.” “China's civil aviation regulator will keep negotiating with other countries to gradually increase the number of international flights,” said Xu Qing, Director of the Transport Department of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC). The upcoming winter-spring aviation season starts on October 30.

Shanghai-based China Eastern plans to operate 108 international flights per week from the end of the month, doubling the current 54 weekly international flights. Many of the routes have been suspended due to travel restrictions since the Covid-19 outbreak in early 2020. Guangzhou-based China Southern's number of international flights will rise to 86 from 71 at present during the new flight season.

The Wuhan Institute of Biological Products said that it has successfully isolated monkeypox virus strains from clinical samples and has begun researching vaccines and drugs for fighting the infectious disease. Most monkeypox patients can recover without special treatment, and there is no domestically developed vaccine approved to prevent the infection so far. Globally, the primary vaccine approved for use in the United States and a number of other countries is Jynneos, made by a Danish pharmaceutical company.

This overview is based on reports by the China Daily, Shanghai Daily, Global Times and South China Morning Post.